The Blog Aquatic » dolphins News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 20 Jan 2015 17:39:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 42 Years of the Marine Mammal Protection Act Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:10:37 +0000 Jackie Yeary

Marine mammals are some of the most beloved animals in our ocean. Whether you have a soft spot for majestic whales, playful seals or adorable sea otters, you have reason to celebrate. Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an important piece of legislation that protects all marine mammal species found in U.S. waters.

The Act protects whales, dolphins, polar bears, walruses and many other marine mammals (approximately 125 species). This Act “prohibits, with certain exceptions, the ‘take’ of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the US.” This means any attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill marine mammals is illegal without special permits.

Some threats faced by marine mammals face come from boaters and tourists. You can reduce these threats by following the guidelines developed by NOAA for responsible marine wildlife viewing. The guidelines may differ slightly by region or species, but there are also general rules to follow if you encounter a marine mammal in the wild—such as keep a respectful distance, and never attempt to touch or feed the animal.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act has given threatened and endangered species a chance to rebound. Hopefully, with increased awareness and continued protection, the marine mammals we love will continue to thrive in our ocean, and people will enjoy these amazing animals for generations to come.

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On Gulf Science, BP Puts Up a Fight Instead of Making This Right Thu, 24 Apr 2014 21:26:03 +0000 Chris Robbins

Photo: Tom McCann

A recent Financial Times article reported that BP rejected the government’s $147 million request to fund Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) activities in 2014 as part of ongoing efforts to quantify and remedy environmental harm related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The law requires that responsible parties of oil spills, including BP, pay for reasonable costs of assessing oil spill damage to the environment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) submitted the request, which was the latest in a series of routine requests the NRDA Trustee agencies have submitted since the disaster in 2010. Undertaking scientific study and analysis is the only way for the Trustee agencies to document environmental harm caused by the disaster and to estimate the cost of restoration, for which BP and other companies found liable are responsible. The NRDA injury studies will help guide the types of actions needed to restore resources injured by the disaster. By law, BP may participate in NRDA studies the company funds, but the Trustee agencies analyze the raw data independent of BP and form their own conclusions about natural resource injuries.

BP’s refusal to pay for NRDA activities already underway is not helpful, nor does it uphold the spirit of working in good faith that BP continues to tout in full page newspaper ads and TV commercials to this day. This may be a smart legal strategy, but it’s a form of posturing that won’t get us any closer to understanding the environmental harm that was done or the actions needed to restore coastal and marine species, habitats, and the goods and services that support ocean-dependent businesses and a way of life. NOAA’s request covered a wide range of scientific activities for natural resources such as bluefin tuna, sea turtles, dolphins, oysters, coastal wetlands and sargassum, a floating brown alga teeming with marine life. These species and habitats are priorities for continued study because they are among the hardest hit, according to experts and publicly available data and research. Now, because of BP’s refusal, NOAA  essentially must seek an advance from the National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) to carry out this science. The NPFC, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard, is the mechanism set up to adjudicate funding requests for NRDA studies when responsible parities deny those requests.

BP has a legal right to dispute the Trustees’ interpretations of the science, but denying the funding to collect, analyze, and manage the information that supports restoration amounts to sidestepping their repeated commitment to making the Gulf ecosystem whole. The company has a civic duty and a legal obligation to fund the science that is so fundamental to clarifying and repairing harm to the environment. BP, in its own words, should “make this right” by doing right and support this research in the Gulf.

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New Study Shows Dolphins are Struggling to Recover from BP Oil Disaster Wed, 18 Dec 2013 20:33:41 +0000 Alexis Baldera

Photo: US NOAA Fisheries

Nearly four years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, we are beginning to see scientific data that points to the injury caused to important marine mammals like the bottlenose dolphin. A recent NOAA-commissioned study of 32 dolphins living in Barataria Bay, Louisiana – an area of the Gulf heavily oiled by the BP oil disaster – determined that dolphins had severely reduced health.

The animals showed multiple signs of poor health, including tooth loss, lung disease, reduced hormone levels and low body weight. These symptoms were not seen in dolphins at an unoiled comparison site or in previous dolphin health assessments unrelated to this study.

Nearly half of the dolphins were given an uncertain or worse prognosis, which means that many of the dolphins are not expected to survive. The authors of the study determined that “many disease conditions observed in Barataria Bay dolphins are uncommon but consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity.”

The results of this study are troubling because the Gulf dolphin population in Barataria Bay is about 1,000 animals, and the death of even a small number of dolphins may have a serious effect on this local population. The dolphins in Barataria Bay and other areas of the northern Gulf have been dying in unusually high numbers since February 2010. Scientists are working to determine the cause of this unusual mortality event and how it may relate to the BP oil disaster.

The coastal marshes surrounding Barataria Bay still contain oil from the disaster. Tar mats and tar balls containing BP oil continue to wash up on Gulf beaches following extreme storms, such as Tropical Storm Karen in October and Hurricane Isaac last year.

Ocean Conservancy believes that funding for long-term research and monitoring is critical to determine the full injury of the BP oil disaster and to track the recovery of dolphins and other Gulf natural resources. In order to begin recovery for these and other dolphins, we can respond quicker to stranded animals by enhancing capabilities of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We can also use new technologies, such as high definition video surveys, to track and monitor wild dolphin populations. We have an opportunity to accelerate the recovery of dolphins affected by the oil spill by implementing these activities with a portion of the $1 billion down payment that BP has made for early restoration.

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What’s on your beach? Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 Trash Index Tue, 27 Mar 2012 16:59:19 +0000 Nick Mallos

Today we release our latest data from our International Coastal Cleanup, a tsunami ghost ship appears and BP is still responsible for damage to the Gulf of Mexico.

Volunteers from the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup picked up enough food packaging for a person to get takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next 858 years. At the same time, if all the butts that have been picked up by volunteers over the last 26 years were stacked up, they would be as tall as 3,613 Empire State Buildings. That’s a lot of trash.


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