The Blog Aquatic » whales News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 14 Aug 2014 17:21:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 VIDEO: My GYRE Expedition to Alaska’s Remote Coastline Mon, 22 Jul 2013 19:39:16 +0000 Nick Mallos
This video is the final update from Ocean Conservancy Conservation Biologist and Marine Debris Specialist Nicholas Mallos about his GYRE Expedition in Alaska. Read his first update here, his second here and his third here.

I recently returned from an expedition to survey ocean trash on some of the most remote coastlines in all of Alaska. Rarely do you get the opportunity to be so close to the very animals you are working to protect.

In this video that I shot during the trip, I explain what I saw on my journey, from marine debris that would dwarf a human to breaching humpbacks, fin whales, mothers and their calves. Yes, we have blemished these landscapes, but the incredible wildlife that still thrive there is all the more the reason to continue our work to keep trash out of our waterways and our ocean.

Watch the video and join the fight for a healthy ocean.

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How Collaborative Technology Is Saving Endangered Whales Mon, 01 Oct 2012 16:58:33 +0000 Guest Blogger

Credit: NOAA

With a few taps and a swipe of the screen, the iPhone never ceases to amaze me. From forecasting the weather and tracking the arrival of the next bus, to choosing sustainable seafood and forming eco-conscious habits (Ocean Conservancy’s newly launched app Rippl is a must-have!), the amount of accessible and accurate information provided by the small hand-held device seems endless. However, we land-dwellers aren’t the only ones benefiting from hand-held technology – even the North Atlantic Right Whale can reap the benefits from this era of insta-information.

Sparked by an increasing concern over the number of whale deaths within Boston Harbor’s shipping lanes, port authorities, scientists, the shipping industry, and federal agencies have come together over the past five years seeking solutions that support both commerce and marine wildlife.  A suite of tools resulted from this collaboration, designed to help mariners protect North Atlantic Right Whales easily. Simple solutions derived from scientific observation and data collection, including the rerouting of shipping lanes to avoid prime feeding grounds and the recent development of the WhaleAlert app, have caused incredible improvement in whale mortality rates within the harbor.

By compiling existing shipping regulations in one easy-to-use interface, the app serves as a convenient tool sending information directly to a captain’s hands via an iPhone or iPad. Among its impressive capabilities, the app alerts captains with recommended routes to avoid whale collisions, advisories to slow ship speeds – and with real-time data derived from acoustic buoys tracking whale calls beneath the surface of the water.  Couple these tools with GPS and digital maps provided by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, and captains can make the best possible decisions regarding the safety of their ships and marine life by navigating mindfully through Boston’s busy waters.

Streamlining data and utilizing user-friendly platforms are not concepts limited to Boston’s congested shipping lanes, though. Everyday our coastal and ocean waters host a myriad of activities – not limited to marine ecosystems, fishermen, offshore energy development, and shippers – and it makes sense that we acquire as much information as possible to balance all these needs in a way that benefits everyone.

Luckily, the National Ocean Policy supports the tools and resources necessary to accomplish this. Through smart ocean planning, regions can identify and address specific issues prioritized by their individual communities, and strengthen existing programs and efforts through increased coordination and collaboration. Tools such as information-sharing, data portals and interactive maps better inform and guide decision-making on the local level, allowing business to move forward in both a faster manner and with greater insight. With the engagement of all involved, we can more efficiently and effectively preserve our marine resources and support our coastal economies.

And if we can accomplish this through something as simple as the phone in our hands – allowing us to continue our favorite recreational activities along our coastlines, enjoy a plate of barbequed oysters on a Saturday afternoon – and protect our favorite marine life – imagine what we can do when we encourage proactive ocean planning nation-wide.

Our ocean may not be limitless, but the possibilities in future ocean planning are.


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Amazing Facts about Bowhead Whales and How You Can Help Them Tue, 07 Aug 2012 19:55:56 +0000 Catherine Fox

Did you know bowhead whales can boast some surprising statistics?

  • their blubber is more than a foot thick, and
  • their baleen—plates in the mouth that filter prey from water—can grow 15 feet long.

But one of their most eye-opening attributes is their longevity. Chemical analysis on samples from whale eyeballs the size of billiard balls revealed ages up to an estimated 211 years. Accounting for a margin of error of about 16 percent, the oldest bowhead studied could have been up to 245 years old—no other mammal is known to have lived as long.

More than 13,000 bowheads swim off Alaska’s coast, but threats are growing. Oil and gas exploration will impact bowhead habitat and increases the stresses whales face.

“We know they react to the noise of activity related to oil drilling at distances of more than 12 miles,” explains bowhead researcher Craig George. Offshore oil and gas exploration means not only more underwater clanging, humming and pounding, but also increased vessel traffic.

As sea ice retreats, commercial shipping lanes will likely bring additional traffic. “Only a few bowheads show propeller injuries at present,” says George, “but as activities pick up, we should expect more whales to get struck by ships.”

Learn more about bowhead whales and how you can take action to help protect them.

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