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Oceans
The Great Australian Bight is home to one of only two southern right whale calving grounds in the world. Bob Adams / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Seismic Blasting Approved in the Great Australian Bight, Posing 'Lethal Threat' to Marine Life

Australia's petroleum regulator granted permission for seismic blasting in the Great Australian Bight, sparking fierce outcry from environmentalists over its threat to the area's marine life, whihc include endangered blue and southern right whales.

On Monday, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) gave the green light to oil and gas exploration services company PGS Australia's application for seismic surveys off the coast of South Australia's Kangaroo Island and Eyre Peninsula between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 this year.

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Animals
An adult and sub-adult Minke whale dragged aboard the Nisshin Maru, a Japanese whaling vessel. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

Japan Expected to Withdraw From IWC to Resume Whale Hunting

Despite a global ban on commercial whaling more than 30 years ago, Japan has caught about 200-1,200 whales every year since 1987—including pregnant and juvenile ones—under the exception of "scientific research." Opponents have fiercely criticized this research program as just a cover so the whales can be killed for human consumption.

Now, the national broadcaster NHK reports that the Japanese government wants to fully resume commercial whaling by pulling out of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Commercial whaling was paused in 1986 by the IWC because some whales were hunted to near extinction.

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Oceans
North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction and Trump's offshore drilling plans could make things worse. NOAA

Trump Administration Approves Harmful Seismic Blasting in Atlantic

Despite vehement opposition from communities, businesses and lawmakers along the Atlantic coast, the National Marine Fisheries Service on Friday is expected to issue five permits, or Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHA), that allow deafening seismic surveys to search for offshore oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Trump administration's move was first reported by Bloomberg, which said the IHAs allow five companies to use airgun blasting in waters off Delaware to central Florida.

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Animals
Mass pilot whale stranding at Rakiura/Stewart Island. Department of Conservation / YouTube

145 Whales Dead After Mass Stranding on New Zealand Beach

As many as 145 pilot whales are dead after beaching themselves on a remote beach in Rakiura, or Stewart Island, in southern New Zealand.

A "heartbreaking decision" was made to put down half of the animals due to their poor condition and the difficult-to-access location, a Department of Conservation (DOC) official said Monday in a media release.

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Animals
A sperm whale that washed up in Indonesia's Wakatobi National Park had plastic bottles, bags and cups in its belly. @WWF_ID / Kartika Sumolang

13 Pounds of Plastic Found in Dead Sperm Whale

Yet another whale has suffered from plastic pollution. A sperm whale that washed up dead in a national park in Indonesia had nearly 13 pounds of plastic waste in its stomach, park officials told the Associated Press.

Researchers from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the park's conservation academy uncovered more than 1,000 other pieces of plastic, including 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, 2 flip-flops and a nylon sack.

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Animals
Baby mountain gorilla. Pixabay

Conservation and 'Renewed Hope': Mountain Gorilla Numbers Rebound

First, the good news. Collaborative conservation efforts have brought "renewed hope" for mountain gorillas and two large whale species, according to today's update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The mountain gorilla subspecies moved from "critically endangered" to "endangered" due to anti-poaching patrols and veterinary interventions. In 2008, their population dropped to as low as 680 individuals––but the new estimates reveal that the number of mountain gorillas has increased to more than 1,000 individuals—the highest figure ever recorded for the eastern gorilla subspecies, the IUCN said.

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Energy
The Great Australian Bight is home to one of only two southern right whale calving grounds in the world. Greenpeace / Jaimen Hudson

An Oil Spill in the Great Australian Bight Could Be Twice as Bad as Deepwater Horizon

Equinor, Norway's state oil company formerly known as Statoil, has faced criticism from environmentalists over its plans to drill the Great Australian Bight off the country's southern coast. A potential spill in the area would threaten the ecosystem and endanger the largest breeding populations of endangered southern right whales in the world.

Such fears are now confirmed if a blowout should actually occur, according to a leaked draft Oil Pollution Emergency Plan authored by Equinor and obtained by Greenpeace's Australia Pacific branch.

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Animals
A pod of narwhals (Monodon monoceros) in central Baffin Bay. Narwhals are the most vulnerable animals to increased ship traffic in the Arctic Ocean. Kristin Laidre / University of Washington, CC BY-ND

Arctic Ship Traffic Threatens Narwhals and Other Extraordinary Animals

By Donna Hauser, Harry Stern and Kristin Laidre

Americans often associate fall with football and raking leaves, but in the Arctic this season is about ice. Every year, floating sea ice in the Arctic thins and melts in spring and summer, then thickens and expands in fall and winter.

As climate change warms the Arctic, its sea ice cover is declining. This year scientists estimate that the Arctic sea ice minimum in late September covered 1.77 million square miles, tying the sixth lowest summertime minimum on record.

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Animals
Masha Netrebenko / Facebook

90 Belugas, 11 Orcas Trapped in 'Whale Jail' off Russian Coast

Ninety belugas and 11 orcas are being held in tiny enclosures described by media reports as "whale jails" off Russia's Pacific east coast.

An investigation has been launched at the site near city of Nakhodka, where some of the whales have been contained since July, CBS News reported.

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