Beluga Whale in River Thames 'Very Lost and Quite Possibly in Trouble'
Close-up of beluga whale swimming in water. Graham Swain / EyeEm / Getty Images
Beluga whales are normally found in icy Arctic and subarctic waters. So onlookers were undoubtedly surprised to spot one of the distinctive white whales swimming very far south in the UK's River Thames.
Ecologist and ornithologist Dave Andrews first posted footage of the unusual sighting onto Twitter on Tuesday and said the whale was feeding around the barges near the town of Gravesend in northwest Kent.
"Can't believe I'm writing this, no joke - BELUGA in the Thames off Coalhouse Fort," he wrote.
Can't believe I'm writing this, no joke - BELUGA in the Thames off Coalhouse Fort @RareBirdAlertUK https://t.co/6VtrJ1PVc6— Dave Andrews (@Dave Andrews)1537871529.0
At first, it was unclear that the animal was actually a beluga, but Richard Sabin, curator of marine mammals at the Natural History Museum confirmed the species.
"The latest set of images and videos I've seen suggest very strongly that this is a beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas," he said in a museum blog post. "The white body color, absence of a prominent dorsal fin, bulbous forehead and general swimming motion all suggest this very strongly."
A beluga whale was spotted in the UK's River Thames, one of the furthest south sightings ever. Researchers say clim… https://t.co/otNyYEdqK4— AJ+ (@AJ+)1537890705.0
Belugas can be found in Russia, Alaska, Canada, West Greenland and Svalbard, but they have swum far from their usual habitats before. They've been recorded as vagrant at Japan, New Jersey, Washington state, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Ireland, Scotland, France, the Netherlands and Denmark, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
But this is the first time a beluga has been spotted in the River Thames, The Telegraph reported.
Ornithological consultant Lee Evans told the publication that the whale is "in grave danger."
"It is stuck next to a buoy and hasn't moved for an hour-and-a-half except coming up to breathe. It was a lot more active earlier. It's either stuck or there's something wrong," Evans said.
Evans explained that large winds from the north could have pushed the whale south towards the Thames.
"The whales only ever come to these narrow estuaries when there's something very wrong. The Thames is far too warm for this beluga and I doubt it can feed," he said.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society told BBC News that animal was "obviously very lost and quite possibly in trouble" and is urging the public to give space to the whale.
The conservation group also noted in a Tuesday blog post there have been about 20 previous sightings of beluga whales in the UK, but these were off the coasts of Northumberland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Belugas are listed as "near threatened" by the IUCN due to human activities such as in oil and gas operations, commercial shipping and hunting. Rising temperatures caused by climate change has also melted Arctic ice and opened its waters, increasing the scale and distribution of such human activities in beluga habitats, according to the IUCN.
The World Wildlife Fund also says that climate change has shrunk the extent and thickness of ice cover, which belugas use as a place to feed, to take refuge and to hide from their predators such as orcas.
A 2016 study led by the University of Washington found that the annual migration of some beluga whales in Alaska was altered by sea ice changes in the Arctic.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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