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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy



NOAA Says Shell Drilling Would Impact Thousands of Marine Mammals

Posted On March 11, 2015 by

Earlier this year, President Obama took executive action to protect some of the Arctic Ocean’s most significant marine areas from the threats posed by oil and gas drilling. Unfortunately, some areas of the Arctic Ocean were left open to oil companies, and oil giant Shell has been gearing up to make another attempt to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released an analysis that details how Shell’s proposed drilling operations may impact whales and seals. The results? Tens of thousands of of animals may be exposed to noise that could disrupt vital life activities like migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, and sheltering. NOAA’s analysis determined that more than 50,000 seals and more than 6,000 whales–including belugas, bowheads, grays, and humpbacks–could be affected by Shell’s proposed drilling activities.

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42 Years of the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Posted On October 21, 2014 by

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.

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Harp Seal: Lazy (Albeit Cute)?

Posted On March 20, 2013 by

I know what you’re thinking; are harp seals really that lazy? Well alright, you’re probably just thinking that this Parry Gripp song is pretty catchy, but I want to take a few minutes to write about the life history and behavior of this little dude.

Harp seals are named as such because their dorsal fin is shaped like the musical instrument, and while it might not be as majestic-sounding as a harp, young pups can make their own music. Observe:

You can find harp seals in the Arctic and north Atlantic oceans eating different kinds of fish, including but not limited to cod, herring and Greenland halibut. Common predators they have to watch out for are polar bears, sharks and killer whales.

Harp seals also do happen to have a cool yellow jacket…for a little while anyway! Their fur is actually yellow when pups are born, so they get the nickname “yellowcoats” for the first few days of their lives. They’ll then move onto a white coat, from there a silver-tinted coat, and a “ragged-jacket” look when molting in between phases. After the white fur is completely gone, they enter the “beater” phase, and by 15 months old the seals have some solid spots that qualify them as “bedlamers.” They’ll stay like that until they reach sexual maturity, where they’ll take on the long-term harp seal coat. Good to know that harp seals have more fashionable outerwear than some of us humans, eh?

The harp seal might not have a cool camera, but when everyone else is clamoring to take pictures of you, who needs one–right? As far as them being lazy goes, the world may never know; but in the spirit of laziness, here’s a picture of a harp seal casually napping so you can think about that question while you go back to laboring at work, class, etc…and generally not being a cute harp seal.