Another Vancouver Aquarium beluga whale dies; 3rd whale within 6yrs…

Vancouver Aquarium beluga whale dies after break-in

Vancouver police are investigating a break-in at the Vancouver Aquarium on Thursday night, hours before three-year-old baby beluga whale Tiqa was found dead in the pool.

Aquarium spokeswoman Charlene Chiang confirmed the break-in but directed all calls to Vancouver police.

Spokeswoman Const. Jana McGuinness wasn’t immediately available for comment.

“Tiqa, born June 10, 2008, died early this [Friday] morning at approximately 5:45 a.m.,” the aquarium said in a press release.

The animal “was on and off food,” said spokeswoman Charlene Chiang. But the death “was very sudden for us.”

The beluga’s body has been sent to B.C.’s animal health care centre at the agriculture ministry for a necropsy.

The results are expected to “take some time,” said Chiang.

“Vancouver Aquarium staff — particularly its animal care team — and volunteers are deeply saddened by this loss,” the statement said.

Tiqa was the third calf sired by Imaq, a 23-year-old who was relocated earlier this year to a Texas breeding pool, to die at Vancouver’s facility.

Tiqa’s sibling, Nala, suddenly choked to death in June 2010 after two small rocks and a coin inflamed a “pocket-like growth” that blocked her air passage.

The aquarium said the growth was a “bizarre,” possibly congenital, defect and called the death unpreventable.

Nala’s mother, Aurora, also gave birth to a male calf named Tuvaq in 2002, which died three years later.

Nala’s death brought calls to end the breeding of belugas in captivity but others said the education and research value gained from keeping belugas outweighs tragedies like Nala’s death.

Tiqa was the aquarium’s last remaining calf. Mother Qila, 16, was the first beluga to be born at a Canadian aquarium. She is one of the three belugas left at the aquarium. The others are Kavna, 43, and Aurora, 24.

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Accidental Sea Turtle Deaths Drop By 90 Percent Since 1990; Fishing Equipment Preventing Lethal ‘Bycatch

Accidental Sea Turtle Deaths Drop By 90 Percent Since 1990; Fishing Equipment Preventing Lethal ‘Bycatch’

DURHAM, North Carolina — The number of sea turtles accidentally caught and killed in fishing gear in United States coastal waters has declined by an estimated 90 percent since 1990, according to a new study by researchers at Duke University Project GloBAL and Conservation International.

The report, published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, credits the dramatic drop to measures that have been put into place over the last 20 years to reduce bycatch in many fisheries, as well as to overall declines in U.S. fishing activity.

The study’s authors estimate that 4,600 sea turtles die each year in U.S. coastal waters.

Before measures to reduce bycatch were put in place, total sea turtle takes surpassed 300,000 annually. Of these, 70,000 turtles were killed.

The study used data collected from 1990 to 2007 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to determine bycatch rates across more than 20 fisheries operating in Atlantic waters from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border, and in the Pacific Ocean, along the West coast and around Hawaii.

It found that overall turtle bycatch rates, including both fatal and nonfatal run-ins, have fallen about 60 percent since 1990.

Shrimp trawls in the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern U.S. accounted for up to 98 percent of all by-catch takes and deaths during the study period.

All six marine turtle species that occur in U.S. waters are categorized as threatened or endangered on the U.S.Endangered Species List. They are loggerheads, leatherbacks, hawksbills, olive ridleys, Kemp’s ridleys and green sea turtles.

Bycatch is an acute threat to sea turtle populations worldwide. High bycatch rates can be indicative of unsustainable fishing practices that negatively impact the health of marine ecosystems.

“The reduction of bycatch and mortality shows important progress by NMFS, which serves as a model for reducing sea turtle bycatch in other parts of the world,” says Elena Finkbeiner, a PhD student at Duke and lead author of the paper. “Our findings show that there are effective tools available for policymakers and fishing industries to reduce sea turtle bycatch, as long as they are implemented properly and consistently.”

Among the mitigation strategies that have helped reduce bycatch are: the use of circle hooks and dehooking equipment in longline fisheries, to reduce the severity of turtle injuries; the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in shrimp trawl nets to allow captured sea turtles to escape; and the implementation of time-area closures to restrict fishing activities at times and places turtles are most likely to be present in the highest numbers.

Piecemeal regulation remains a problem, the study notes. Sea turtles are currently managed on a fishery-by-fishery basis, which means that bycatch limits are set for each fishery without accounting for the overall population impacts of all the takes added together. This fragmented approach leads to total allowed takes that exceed what sea turtle populations can sustain.

“Bycatch limits must be set unilaterally across all U.S. fisheries with overall impacts to populations in mind, much as it’s done for marine mammals,” says co-author Bryan Wallace, director of science for Conservation International’s Marine Flagship Species Program and adjunct faculty member at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

The researchers note that actual bycatch rates are likely higher than what the study reports because in many fisheries, particularly the shrimp trawl fishery, the number of on-board observers who document bycatch on fishing vessels is low relative to the sheer volume of fishing that is occurring.

“This paper provides a baseline to examine what is working and what can be improved in preventing sea turtle bycatch,” Finkbeiner says. “It (makes) a strong case for the need for increased observer coverage and bycatch reporting.”

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In Mexico’s Baja, worry that a ‘new Cancun’ may harm reef

In Mexico’s Baja, worry that a ‘new Cancun’ may harm reef

CABO PULMO, Mexico — What’s happened at the Cabo Pulmo marine reserve off the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula is fishy — in a good way.

Once severely depleted of fish, the reef system off Cabo Pulmo now teems with marine life, thanks to fishing restrictions imposed more than 10 years ago.

But environmentalists are worried that that ecological advance will be lost if the Mexican government allows a $2 billion development plan to go ahead that would place a “new Cancun” less than three miles north of the Cabo Pulmo marine sanctuary.

Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources has given Spanish developer Hansa Urbana all but final approval for the project, which would turn desert scrubland into a bustling development of hotels, condos, golf courses and a large marina.

The government says such a resort would have no impact on the marine reserve.

That makes environmentalists seethe. They say the secretariat’s speedy approvals are questionable and without scientific merit.

“This development is completely unjustifiable, especially since it’s right next to the marine reserve,” said Alejandro Olivera of the Mexico office of Greenpeace, the international activist group on conservation issues.

Olivera called the revival of Cabo Pulmo, the northernmost reef system along the Pacific coast of the Americas, “one of the best examples of marine conservation in Mexico.”

“These fishermen realized that the waters were being overfished. So they changed from being fishermen to becoming providers of eco-services,” he said.

Their action to halt commercial fishing brought about such a dramatic transformation of the reef system that oceanographers say it’s an example not only for Mexico but also for other parts of the world.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, one of the world’s premier proponents of ocean health, described Cabo Pulmo as “the world’s most robust marine reserve.”

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Obama Warns Iceland on Whaling Activity

Obama Warns Iceland on Whaling Activity

In a move hailed by conservation activists, President Barack Obama initiated potential diplomatic sanctions against Iceland this week for its commercial whaling activity. The sanctions include six measures ranging from possibly limiting cabinet-level visits to Iceland to limiting cooperation with Iceland in the Arctic region.

While such sanctions might seem mild to some, for environmentalists it was akin to throwing down the gauntlet, diplomatically speaking. “This is a real shot across the bow,” said Patrick Ramage, global whale program director with the International Fund for Animal Welfare

The disagreement has its roots in a decision by Iceland to resume commercial whale hunting in 2006. In subsequent years the annual number of endangered fin whales killed by Icelandic fleets for whale-meat exports to Japan has risen from 7 to 148.

In a letter sent to Congress on Wednesday night, the president said that such activities “diminish the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission conservation program” and could result in sanctions.

The basis for such sanctions was first certified by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke in July as part of the legal process. He suggested six possible actions that the United States might take to increase pressure on Iceland. The White House had the option to choose none or some of the sanctions; it chose all six.

Mr. Ramage said the decision was being taken seriously in Iceland, where officials are worrying out loud that their whaling activities, which largely benefit one company, are hurting relations with the United States.

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The United States is protesting Iceland’s commercial whaling.

U.S. protests Iceland’s commercial hunting of fin whales

WASHINGTON — The United States is protesting Iceland’s commercial whaling.

President Barack Obama sent a notification to Congress Thursday pointing out that Iceland’s hunting of endangered fin whales is harming international efforts to protect the species.

The U.S. commissioner for the International Whaling Commission, Monica Medina called Iceland’s disregard of the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling unacceptable.

Obama ordered U.S. officials visiting Iceland to raise the U.S. concerns.

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Kayakers allege fishermen dragged sea lions to deaths

Kayakers allege fishermen dragged sea lions to deaths

Federal officials are investigating after kayakers say they saw five Steller sea lions being dragged to their deaths in a fisherman’s net off Vancouver Island.

Vic Neufeld and Alistair Wright of Calgary were paddling in Robson Bight when they saw the marine mammals caught in a fishing net.

“The sea lions were trying to get out. They were porpoising through the net. [The fishermen] just wouldn’t open up the bag — it was terrible,” Neufeld told CTV News.

“All of a sudden there was this scream — just a howling, deathly, drowning scream.”

Steller sea lions are considered to be a species of special concern in Canada, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is investigating the incident.

But the captain of the Native Spirit disputes the kayakers’ account. Keith Lansdowne admits that the sea lions were dragged in his net bag, but he insists they were alive when he let them go.

“I’ve never heard a sea lion scream. I’ve heard them bark,” he said.

“[They were] maybe not that happy being in the net, but they were barking and swimming along as we idled down away from our setting spot. They were released unharmed.”

Neither the sea lions nor their carcasses have been found. On average, wild sea lions can hold their breath for about two minutes, but they have been recorded staying submerged for between eight and 15 minutes, according to marine mammal researcher Andrew Trites.

Fisheries enforcement officers say that wildlife getting caught in fishermen’s nets is a recurring problem. Just last month, a humpback whale was rescued near Tofino after becoming tangled in ropes from a crab trap.

The DFO operates a hotline at 1-800-465-4336 for people to report incidents involving marine mammals. Serious offences contravening the Fisheries Act can result in fines of up to $100,000 and as long as a year in prison; indictable offences carry a maximum $500,000 fine and two-year prison term.

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Turtle is lone surviver in aquarium inferno…

Turtle survives aquarium inferno

A turtle miraculously survived an inferno in an aquarium which was so hot it boiled water in some tanks and killed hundreds of fish.

The blaze at the Mapua Aquarium near Nelson was one of three fires in the area early yesterday morning believed to have been the work of arsonists.

Fire investigator Lewis Jones said the fire caused “total destruction” in the building and was so intense it boiled water in some of the tanks and caused their glass to burst.

“Miraculously”, a turtle somehow survived the fire, which killed everything else in the building.

“Fortunately for the turtle he must have been underwater in an area that didn’t get so hot or he was in an area where there was a fair quantity of cold water running in from fire hoses,” Mr Jones said.

“It was the one lovely thing about the whole job. Everything else is a gut-wrenching thing for the community.”

The turtle seemed unscathed after its ordeal and was being looked after by aquarium staff.

While firefighters were battling the blaze at about 3am, they received calls about two other fires in the area, one in a wheelie bin on Iwa Street and another at the local tennis court pavilion.

These were quickly extinguished but the aquarium blaze took hours to control.

Police are treating all the fires as suspicious.

They asked anyone who took photos of any of the fires to contact Motueka police.

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Hundreds of fish believed dead after aquarium fire

Hundreds of fish believed dead after aquarium fire

Firefighters have put out a fire that destroyed the Touch the Sea Aquarium in Mapua early on Thursday.

The fire was the most serious of three lit in the area within the space of an hour, which police believe are linked and are treating as suspicious.

It took eight fire engines and a helicopter to bring the fire under control.

Hundreds of fish are believed to be dead, though it is not yet confirmed if this is the case.

“It’s totally burnt out, I dare say the fish will have had a horrible death,” Touch the Sea’s Murray Goss told the New Zealand Herald. “Some of them will still be alive – some of the ones in the big tanks.”

Fires were also started in a nearby rubbish bin and a tennis court pavilion.

Marine educator at the aquarium, Richard de Hamel, watched it burn.

“They just rang up and said it’s all on fire, and I guess in some ways I just saw my future flash before my eyes,” he told 3 News.

“You think it can’t be, but it definitely is.”

As well as being a tourist attraction, the aquarium had a hands-on teaching program and would often host school groups.

“The aquarium’s such a drawcard for children in summer, and for it not to be here, it’s part of Mapua’s waterfront,” says Graham Drury, owner of a gift shop that was also burned.

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Seal-bashing teen jailed!

Seal-bashing teen jailed

A teenager who beat seals to death using a galvanised pole near Kaikoura has been jailed for two years.

Jason Trevor Godsiff, 19, of Renwick, previously admitted wilfully ill-treating the protected seals at Ohau Point, north of Kaikoura.

He appeared before Judge Ian Mill in the Blenheim District Court today.

A charge of possession of an offensive weapon was dropped.

Godsiff’s co-accused, Jamaal Peter Roy Large, 36, from the Wairau Valley, has denied the charges.

More than 20 fur seals were beaten to death late last year in what the Conservation Department described as a “callous and cowardly” attack.

Some were just a few days old.

The dead seals included 13 females and two bulls. Seals in the area had injuries that suggested they had also been hit.

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Ships kill whales in Auckland waters – study finds…

Ships kill whales in Auckland waters

Research has shown 14 endangered Bryde’s whales found dead in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf in recent years were killed by boats.

An autopsy on a 12-metre Bryde’s whale found dead on Friday revealed massive injuries along half its body, said Massey University veterinary pathologist Stuart Hunter.

“It was clear that the whale had severe trauma, running all the way from the rib cage to near the tail of the whale, so it was most likely to be a large vessel that caused these lethal injuries,” he said.

“This puts them within the strike depth of many vessels using the gulf.”

The researcher urged captains of large ships to be more vigilant in watching out for the huge mammals.

“All vessels using the Hauraki Gulf pose a threat to whales so it is important that everyone using these waters is watching out for these large residents in Auckland’s backyard,” she said.

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