The Blog Aquatic » whale http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Is There a New Species of Whale in the Gulf of Mexico? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/05/is-there-a-new-species-of-whale-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/05/is-there-a-new-species-of-whale-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/#comments Fri, 05 Apr 2013 20:17:51 +0000 Alexis Baldera http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5346

The tan color on this map shows the range of sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico. The colored areas show the chance of sperm whales utilizing this habitat, with red being the highest.

Not quite a new species, but the population of sperm whales in the Gulf is distinctly different from their relatives. So different that last week, in response to a petition from WildEarth Guardians, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it will be taking a closer look at sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico in order to determine if they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Sperm whales across the world are already listed as an endangered species, but this new designation will recognize the Gulf population as a distinct group and protect and monitor it separately from the global population.

There are characteristics of sperm whales in the Gulf that may be sufficient to classify them as a distinct group. Gulf sperm whales do not leave the Gulf and are generally smaller and use  different vocalizations (probably learned culturally) than other sperm whales. Gulf sperm whales also face Gulf-specific threats such as oil and gas development, high levels of shipping traffic and noise, potential effects from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and water quality degradation near the mouth of the Mississippi River. As shown on the map above, the area southeast of the Mississippi River Delta is important for sperm whales. The outflow of nutrients from the river, upwelling along the continental slope and eddies from Gulf currents create unique ecological conditions that make this a productive area where sperm whales go to find food and potentially mates.

We do not know whether the population of sperm whales in the Gulf is growing or declining, or how many human-caused deaths of sperm whales happen in the Gulf. In order to improve our understanding of this amazing species, which is so dependent on the Gulf, we need more long-term research and monitoring. One way to gather information about sperm whales, and other marine mammals, is through tagging and tracking of the animals. Using satellite-linked tags and radio transmitters attached to animals can provide information on habitat use, foraging behavior, distribution and exposure to hydrocarbons. Ocean Conservancy is working to enhance marine mammal tracking and tagging research in the Gulf. We are proposing that some restoration funding from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill be allocated to tracking and tagging research for marine animals in the Gulf to increase our understanding of these animals and their threats.

Tagging and tracking wildlife over time will put scientists in a much stronger position to learn whether or where changes are happening in the Gulf, and to make sure we are on the right course to recovering from the nation’s largest offshore environmental crisis.

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How to help an injured animal http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/09/how-to-help-an-injured-animal/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/09/how-to-help-an-injured-animal/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2012 20:15:17 +0000 Carmen Yeung http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1374

Note: After receiving questions from readers, I have written a follow-up post here.

While on vacation, I came across a crab entangled in a fishing net at a local, beachside restaurant.  My time working with crustaceans in science laboratories and in the field gave me the necessary familiarity with their movements and behaviors to handle the animal without hurting it or myself. Armed with this knowledge, I quickly and carefully untangled the piece of fishing net that had wound up tightly on the crab and placed him gently back on the local beach.

Without the proper qualifications, attempting to help a hurt animal in the wild could result in further injury. So what should you do if you encounter an entangled animal at the beach?

In cases of marine crustaceans, I wouldn’t recommend picking up a live crab because it’s still a wild animal and you don’t have to be a biologist to know those pinches hurt. The best way to help them is to reduce the chances of entanglement by keeping trash off the beach. If a crab or other small animal is no longer alive (and it doesn’t gross you out), consider disposing of the garbage entangling the animal to protect larger scavengers (such as seabirds) from suffering a similar fate at mealtime.

If you see a sick, injured, or dead marine mammal or sea turtle, please report the animal by calling a stranding center nearest you. Do not touch or move the animal because you could further injure the animal and also hurt yourself. Keep other people and pets at least 50 feet away from the animal because getting too close could stress the animal. Check out The Marine Mammal Center’s seven steps to help a stranded marine mammal for more information.

Many animal injuries are preventable. Most importantly, you and I have the power to reduce those injuries. As the summer rolls on, remember to properly dispose trash (including fishing lines), admire wildlife from a safe distance and enjoy the water!

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Young Gray Whale Rescued From Fishing Line, Future Uncertain http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/14/young-gray-whale-rescued-from-fishing-line-future-uncertain/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/14/young-gray-whale-rescued-from-fishing-line-future-uncertain/#comments Mon, 14 May 2012 16:52:09 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=541  

Credit: NOAA

Discarded fishing gear abounds in the ocean. The problem of whale entanglement is, sadly, not a new one. Just last week, a whale tangled in fishing line, net and buoys traveled hundreds of miles from Southern California all the way to Bodega Bay, where fishermen were able to free the huge creature.

The next day, Humboldt County residents anxiously followed a similar story as agencies descended upon Humboldt Bay’s southern peninsula in hopes of saving a juvenile gray whale spotted tangled in ropes from drifting crab pots. The Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and California Department of Fish and Game, along with help from Humboldt State University professors worked together to free the whale. Local whale expert HSU professor Dawn Goley reported success, but feared the injuries incurred may be too much for the young whale’s survival. We’re hoping for a happy ending to this sad story.

Those at sea or on the beach who spot a tangled whale are urged to contact NOAA. And to prevent this sort of harm from happening in the future, I urge everyone to help reduce ocean trash, including fishing gear, to protect all species of whales — and every creature inhabiting the ocean!

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