Surfers swim with whales

Surfers swim with whales

A family of five orca whales caused quite a stir at Mount Maunganui beach yesterday when they came close to shore while chasing stingray.

Dennis Tait-Jamieson from Hibiscus Surf School got up close and personal with the family of mother, father and three calves, after spotting them off Leisure Island at around midday on Wednesday.

A family of five orca were spotted off Mount Maunganui beach yesterday and surfer Dennis Tait-Jamieson got the chance to swim with them. Photo: Hibiscus Surf School.

“One really kind of bonded with me. It came right up against me, then did a loop and came back again.”

Dennis and fellow surfer Guy Shuttleworth followed the whales as they made their way from Leisure Island down to Papamoa stopping at different locations to have a swim with the family.

“I have swum with Moko a few times but there is a different feeling and energy between swimming with dolphins and whales. It was a really humbling experience.”

Dennis says him and Guy spent about four hours with the whales before the family headed down the coast to Maketu.

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Times Atlas To Print New World Map Without Tuvalu, Maldives, Manhattan etc

Times Atlas To Print New World Map Without Tuvalu, Maldives, Manhattan etc

Following its controversial decision to produce a map suggesting that Greenland has lost 15 per cent of its ice cover in the last twelve years – a loss rate disputed by most credible scientists: and even, amazingly, the Guardian agrees on this – the Times Comprehensive Atlas Of The World has decided to take its new role as cheerleader for Climate Change alarmism a step further. In its upcoming 14th edition, unconfirmed rumours suggest, it will completely omit Tuvalu, the Maldives and major parts of Bangladesh in order to convey the “emotional truth” about “man made climate change.”

“All right, it may not be strictly geographically accurate to say the Maldives and Tuvalu will definitely have disappeared in about ten years time when our next edition appears,” said Times Atlas spokesman David Rose. “But did you see that picture of the Maldives cabinet holding a meeting underwater? If the Maldives government says the Maldives are drowning, they must be drowning. And frankly I think it’s despicable, all those deniers who are saying it was just a publicity stunt, cooked up by green activist Mark Lynas, to blackmail the international community into giving the Maldives more aid money while simultaneously trying to lure green Trustafarians to come and spend £1500 a night in houses on stilts with gold-plated organic recyclable eco-toilets made of rare earth minerals from China. Why would a government lie about something as serious as climate change?”

David Rose added. “I hold a doctorate in Cambridge in Climate Change and Sinking Islands Studies so I know what I’m talking about. And if you don’t believe me, ask my friend Johann Hari who taught me everything I know about the primacy of emotional truth over actual truth. I’m pleased to say that this is a view of the world shared by my colleagues at Times Comprehensive Atlas Of The World. They understand that maps based on accurately recorded geographical features belong in the Victorian age of child chimney sweeps. What we need now is maps that change the world, transforming into something which it isn’t actually yet but might be one day if we don’t act NOW!”

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Gulf of Mexico fishermen’s latest challenge: jellyfish

Gulf of Mexico fishermen’s latest challenge: jellyfish

Last year it was oil. This year it is jellyfish.

Fishermen and shrimpers along the Alabama and Mississippi coasts say their efforts are being hampered by a blanket of jellyfish clogging the waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico.

A year ago the same fishermen were dealing with the after-effects of the BP oil spill, the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Tropical weather might have eased the congestion a bit, but marine experts say jellyfish-clogged waters could put a damper on fishing and shrimping into the winter.

The bloom of thousands of moon jellyfish with their tell-tale clover pattern on their bodies has almost completely halted business in the past three weeks for fisherman and bait shop owner Harry Jemison.

“I catch bait, so they’re stopping me right now,” said Jemison, whose family has operated Jemison’s Bait and Tackle in the Heron Bay Cutoff area near Coden, Ala., for 67 years.

“It’s just like a thunderstorm or a hurricane,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s all part of living in God’s world down here.”

How long the jellyfish will stick around is hard to pin down, said William “Monty” Graham, who leads the University of Southern Mississippi’s marine science department.

Researchers discovered only recently that the umbrella-shaped, dinner plate-sized creatures tend to flourish in eight to 10-year cycles, he said. The current swarm is in about the third year of the latest cycle.

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Hundreds Of Taiwanese Citizens Call On Costa Rica To Protect Sharks

Hundreds Of Taiwanese Citizens Call On Costa Rica To Protect Sharks;

Last Friday, a petition was delivered to Mrs. Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, with the signatures of 380 Taiwanese citizens calling for a complete ban on the importation of shark fins and other shark products. The signatures include staff of the Taipei local government, folks from a Taipei-based Christian church, elementary school students, and many more. The signatures were compiled by Shanon Lee, lecturer at the prestigious National Chiao Tung University.

“We, concerned citizens of Taiwan, are appalled by Taiwan government’s indifference to the illegal finning activities of its fleets overseas in Nicaragua and Costa Rica” denounced Lee. “We do not care for shark fin soup and consider it a horrid, extremely horrid practice, and the Government of Costa Rica has our full support to kick the fleets out!”

Mrs. Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica has been peitioned to stop the importation of shark fins.

While the citizens of Taiwan express their concern over shark finning by their fleets in Costa Rica, Incopesca authorizes the importation of shark fins from Nicaragua by land through Peñas Blancas. Since December 1st, date since which the foreign fleets are obligated to abide by the law and land their products in the public dock of Puntarenas, Incopesca confirmed (DM-08-016-11) that is has authorized the importation of 15000 kilos of shark fins from Nicaragua, clearly circumventing Technical Note 68, which forbids the importation of shark fins that are not attached naturally to the bodies.

With these signatures included, over 5000 citizens of the world have asked President Chinchilla to forbid the importation of sharks to Costa Rica,” informed Randall Arauz, President ofPretoma. “This is the only way that Costa Rica can advance toward the effective conservation and management of shark resources, and if it doesn’t do it, the foreign fleet will continue to circumvent and make a mockery of CostaRican shark conservation and management policy, affecting our credibility in international forums”, he said.

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Vancouver Aquarium: Beluga whale’s death was pneumonia;Tiqa is the 3rd young beluga whale to die at the aquarium in the past 6yr

Vancouver Aquarium: Beluga whale’s death was pneumonia

Young female beluga whale Tiqa died early Friday at the Vancouver Aquarium after suffering an infection — and the death appears unconnected to an overnight break-in.

Vancouver police department Const. Janna McGuiness said there is no evidence linking the break-in at about 4:30 a.m. to the death of the three-year-old beluga just over an hour later.

“This appears to be an unrelated incident,” McGuiness told reporters. “But we’ll just make sure we take every precaution and do a thorough investigation.”

Vancouver Aquarium president John Nightingale said that staff monitoring Tiqa’s condition through the night saw a man climb over the wall of the beluga enclosure and challenged the intruder, who climbed back over the wall and ran away.

“So it was very quick,” added Nightingale, saying that no contact was witnessed between the dying beluga and the trespasser.

Tiqa is the third young beluga whale to die at the aquarium in the past six years. In 2010 calf Nala died just two weeks after her first birthday after her airway became blocked, and in 2005 Tuvaq died at the age of three from heart arrhythmia.

Nightingale has instructed his medical staff to find out whether there any links between the three deaths, and to consult with international experts.

“We simply have to get to the bottom of what’s gone on,” he said.

Clint Wright, the aquarium’s vice-president of operations and animal management, said Tiqa had a “mild sickness” over the previous 10 days and was not eating regularly.

Tiqa’s blood test results had appeared normal through the illness but “[on Thursday] we saw a dramatic change in the blood. Certainly, it looked like she got an infection.”

Tiqa was placed under a 24-hour watch and staff members monitoring her behaviour early Friday morning noticed the beluga wasn’t “acting quite right,” added Wright. The whale died at 5:45 a.m.

The carcass was taken to the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Health Care Centre to undergo a full necropsy by veterinarians Dr. Martin Haulena and Dr. Stephen Raverty.

Nightingale said that despite the tragedy, the aquarium plans to operate a beluga breeding program after the aquarium’s current expansion project is completed, adding that the death of young belugas is not unusual, and about 50 per cent of beluga calves in the wild die young.

He said that belugas, unlike orca killer whales, adapt well to life in aquariums. “If the killer whale is the Ferrari of the whale world, the beluga whale is the Volkswagen bus,” said Nightingale. “They are a putter-around whale and are pretty ideally suited to living in an aquarium.”

Vancouver animal rights activist Peter Hamilton said belugas should not be kept in captivity at the aquarium because it lacks natural flora and fauna. “These animals born in captivity are still naturally wild.”

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Japan hunts 195 whales in northwest Pacific Ocean

Japan hunts 195 whales in northwest Pacific Ocean

Japan says it has caught 195 whales in the Pacific Ocean this season under a research program opposed by activists who call it commercial whaling in disguise.

Japan’s Fisheries Agency said Thursday that the fleet harvested 49 minke, 95 sei and 50 Bryde’s whales and one sperm whale during its three-month Pacific expedition.

Japan also hunts hundreds of whales in the Antarctic Ocean as part of its research program, which is exempt from a 1986 whaling ban.

Critics say the expeditions are a cover for commercial whaling because meat from the harvest is sold for domestic consumption.

Japan’s annual whale catch has declined in recent years due to violent protests by conservationist groups.

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TV news crew treated to extremely rare blue whale serenade

TV news crew treated to extremely rare blue whale serenade

Blue whales are being seen fairly frequently this summer off Southern California, but the planet’s largest creatures are almost never heard vocalizing above the surface.

On Tuesday off Long Beach, however, an NBC crew and biologists aboard the Christopher, during a special morning run, witnessed this extremely rare phenomenon as a large blue whale surfaced alongside the vessel and, with much of its head above the surface, issued a deep, low-pitch groan that lasted nearly 10 seconds.

“We heard it through the air, loud and clear,” said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, an American Cetacean Society researcher. “It was a strange, alien sound. It really was an extraordinary thing.”

Blue whales communicate, for up to hundreds of miles, with low-pitched vocalizations. The vocalizations can sometimes be picked up via submerged hydrophones, but the majestic leviathans, which can measure 100 feet and weigh 150 tons, are not known for making sounds other than those associated with breathing while at the surface.

Those aboard the Christopher — a naturalist from theAquarium of the Pacific also was aboard — were treated to blue whale vocalization twice, as the same whale repeated this behavior on the other side of the boat.

Afterward, Schulman-Janiger phoned John Calambokidis, one of the world’s top blue whale scientists. He told her that in his extensive study of blue whales around the world, he had never heard above-surface vocalization from a blue whale.

“I told the reporters on the boat, “You don’t understand but you will never see this type of behavior again,’ ” Schulman-Janiger said.

About 2,000 blue whales — part of an endangered global population of roughly 10,000 — spend part of each summer and fall off California gorging on tiny shrimp-like krill. A single blue whale can consume four tons of krill, which flourishes in massive blooms in nutrient-rich areas where upwelling occurs, per day.

The whales feed almost constantly but the four whales alongside the Christopher, perhaps having had their fill, were clearly cavorting and possibly engaging in courtship behavior. They lunged, or raced across the surface, at times lifting their heads and chin-slapping in what seemed a game of follow the leader. Typically, it’s a female in the lead.

It was during a break that the largest whale paused and was “like a log in the water,” Schulman-Janiger said, when it began to vocalize. There were no bubbles from below and was no movement of the blow holes, which were clearly visible. The sound appeared to have come from deep within.

Schulman-Janiger used terms such as “otherworldly” and “spooky” while trying to describe the sound, but judging from her enthusiasm it was still music to the ears.

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Australia’s New Dolphin Species: Third Dolphin Species Recognized since 1800’s

Aussie Researcher Discovers New Dolphin Species In Victoria; ‘A Large Sea Fish Of The Porpoise Kind’

MELBOURNE, Victoria — They’re one of the most intelligent marine mammals, well known for their inquisitive and playful nature and now, following an amazing discovery by a Monash University researcher, Victoria’s dolphins have been formally recognised as a new species.

Kate Charlton-Robb, a PhD researcher in the School of Biological Sciences unearthed the remarkable findings, which have been published in the latest PLoS ONE Journal, showing that coastal dolphins in southern Australia greatly differed from any other dolphin worldwide.

The dolphins were originally thought to be one of the two recognised bottlenose dolphin species, however by using multiple lines of scientific evidence these dolphins were found to be unique. The discovery was made by comparing skulls, external characteristics and a number of DNA regions from the current day population as well as specimens dating back to the early 1900s.

Ms Charlton-Robb has formally named the new dolphin Tursiops australis with the common name, the Burrunan dolphin, being an Australian aboriginal name given to dolphins in the Boonwurrung, Woiwurrung and Taungurung languages, meaning ‘large sea fish of the porpoise kind’.

“This is an incredibly fascinating discovery as there have only been three new dolphin species formally described and recognised since the late 1800s.

“What makes this even more exciting is this dolphin species has been living right under our noses, with only two known resident populations living in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria,” said Ms Charlton-Robb.

This research relied in large part on the analysis of dolphin skulls collected and maintained by museums over the last century including the extraordinary holdings at Museum Victoria.

“Ms Charlton-Robb’s discovery is an exciting example of a recent trend in biodiversity research across Victoria and Australia. Through the careful application of emerging technologies to museum specimens, researchers are revealing that our biological heritage is far more diverse than we realise.” said Dr Rowe, Museum Victoria’s Senior Curator of Mammals.

Ms Charlton-Robb said it is important this study continues in order to conserve and protect the Burrunan dolphin for future generations. More research is required to determine if there are other resident populations of this species in Australia.

“We know these unique dolphins are restricted to a very small region of the world, in addition the resident populations are very small with only approximately 100 dolphins in Port Phillip Bay and 50 in the Gippsland Lakes.

“This study highlights the importance of taking a more holistic approach of using multiple analyses, rather than looking in isolation of one scientific methodology. Even though we have progressed a long way in science, this study shows there are still new and exciting discoveries to be made,” said Ms Charlton-Robb.

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Bigger jellyfish are inheriting the ocean, study finds they are working their way up to dominating predator

Bigger jellyfish are inheriting the ocean

Will jellyfish inherit the Earth, or at least the oceans?

A study released Thursday found that the spineless creatures are becoming the dominant predator in areas where fish species are being reduced by overfishing and habitat destruction.

It’s not just that reduced competition is giving the jellyfish more room. The jellyfish themselves are evolving into bigger specimens by increasing the water content in their gels, the study concluded.

Since jellyfish don’t swim much, they mostly float, that larger mass gives them much better chances of floating into their prey — as well as into other jellyfish for sexual reproduction.

Because of that evolutionary trait, jellyfish have similar potential for growth and reproduction as their fish competitors, the researchers found.

“To achieve this production, they have evolved large, water-laden bodies that increase prey contact rates,” the researchers wrote in a study titled: “Faking Giants: The Evolution of High Prey Clearance Rates in Jellyfish.”

“While fish developed visual acuity to detect prey, jellyfish depend on a primitive system based on direct contact with prey,” noted study co-author Angel Lopez-Urrutia of Spain’s Oviedo University. “The key to their success is that by increasing their body size they displace more water and drag more prey toward their tentacles. It’s an effective strategy as long as the swimming pace of jellyfish is sufficiently slow.”

Unless overfishing is curbed and habitat restored, the authors wrote, the findings suggest “a future ‘gelatinous’ ocean reminiscent of the early Ediacaran” Period some 600 million years ago.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

Earlier studies have suggested that jellyfish numbers will also increase as ocean waters warm due to greenhouse gasemissions.

Moreover, some of the nearly 2,000 jellyfish species have already expanded their ranges as once-cold waters warm up.

It’s not just the fear, and sometimes pain, they strike in beachgoers that has experts worried.

The U.S. National Science Foundation notes that jellyfish have undermined fishing industries in the Bering and Black seas and forced the shutdown of seaside power and desalination plants.

Earlier this summer, jellyfish clogged the seawater cooling system of several powerplants in Israel, including a nuclear reactor that had to shut down briefly. Two Scottish nuclear reactors and a Japanese one saw similar disruptions days earlier.

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Too many seals and sea lions killed at B.C. fish farms

Too many seals and sea lions killed at B.C. fish farms

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is reporting publicly, for the first time, the number of sea lions and seals killed at B.C.’s salmon farms as farmers attempt to protect their fish.

Between January and March, 37 harbour seals, 141 California sea lions and two Steller sea lions, which are of “special concern” under the federal Species at Risk Act, were shot and killed at fish farms, according to data posted on the DFO website.

Three more harbour seals and a California sea lion drowned at the farms within the same period.

Critics say that too many seals and sea lions are being killed in order to protect the industry’s cage-netted fish.

The data are reported to the DFO by the individual salmon farms, said Catherine Stewart, the salmon farming campaign manager for Living Oceans, which opposes the farms.

There is no day-to-day on-site monitoring by the government of these farms, she said.

“Are they reporting all of the deaths? Are all of the farms reporting?” Stewart asked.

According to the data, Marine Harvest’s farm at Mahatta West in Quatsino Sound killed 46 California sea lions, 24 more than Fortune Channel, which is operated by Ewos Canada Ltd. More than 120 seals and sea lions were killed at various Marine Harvest Farms along the B.C. coast.

“Zero lethal interactions is our goal,” Ian Roberts, a spokesman for Marine Harvest, said in an email.

Marine Harvest operates half of the fish farms in B.C., he said, adding that their high volume accounts for the higher number of kills.

“We have now purchased additional protector nets to discourage these predators should they return next season,” Roberts said, adding that the first quarter spike in kills is “unusual.”

“Disposing of these animals is a last resort,” said Mary Ellen Walling, the executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association. “We don’t take this lightly.”

She said seals and sea lions are “very intelligent, and can be aggressive.”

They’ll find a way to get the fish, she added.

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