— Humpback whales are forming massive (and unusual) ‘super-groups’

From Slashgear

Brittany A. Roston – Mar 16, 2017

Humpback whales are forming massive (and unusual) ‘super-groups’

A new report out of PLOS reveals that humpback whales are congregating in very large (relatively speaking) super-groups near South Africa, in some cases comprising pods as large as 200 whales. These large whale collectives are said to be engaging in feeding behavior, something that itself is unusual for the species, as it typically feeds on Antarctic krill in the southern polar region.

Humpback whales are creatures of habit, tending to feed during certain times in cold waters and breed during other times in warmer waters. Their migration patterns partly dependent on ocean temperatures, and their typical congregations are small. Data on these migration patterns, and feeding and breeding habits, go back decades.

Lately, though, researchers have noticed that humpback whales are collecting together in larger than typical numbers in pods with between 20 and 200 whales. Together (loosely so), these whales are engaging in feeding behavior in regions near South Africa where they would typically be engaging in breeding behaviors. Researchers have observed these large feeding pods in the October/November months in 2011, 2014, and 2015.

According to the new report, no one is sure why these whales are forming such large numbers and why they’re deviating from their typical feeding habits. The report states the whales in these super-groups tend to be only about five body lengths away from their nearest whale neighbor, and that they’re engaging in ‘repetitive diving behavior’ indicative of feeding. All signs point toward some large scale prey being present in the region, though researchers haven’t been able to sample for it out of fear of entangling the whales in the sampling gear.



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— As food levels plummet, unusual number of humpback whales seen in San Francisco Bay looking for food

“Humpbacks normally feed farther offshore.”

What happens when the food runs out everywhere?

Associated Press
Unusual number of whales seen in San Francisco Bay
May 12, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Migrating humpback whales have been swimming into San Francisco Bay in unprecedented numbers during the past two weeks — an onslaught that experts say could be caused by an unusual concentration of anchovies near shore.

As many as four humpbacks at a time have been spotted flapping their tails and breaching in bay waters, apparently feeding on the anchovies and other schooling fish during incoming tides, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/1TB4C8p) Thursday.

It’s normal for gray whales to wander into the bay, but humpbacks generally feed farther offshore and are not accustomed to navigating shallow water and narrow straits such as those in San Francisco Bay, the newspaper reported.

Mary Jane Schramm, a spokeswoman for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, said she and other marine experts worry that the whales could swamp boats while breaching, get hit by a ship or spooked by people who paddle or sail out to see them.

KSBW-TV reports a humpback whale was rescued in Monterey Bay this week after it became tangled in crab gear. On Thursday afternoon, a pair of whales surfaced near Golden Gate Bridge as two kite surfers came dangerously close to them.

Some have expressed excitement at seeing the whales.

“I had never seen humpback whales before, and it was awesome,” said Laurie Duke, 54, who volunteers at the Marine Mammal Center and Golden Gate Cetacean Research. “They were mostly coming partially out of the water, showing their tails.’

Schramm said the animals could get into trouble if they head any direction except west because the potential for disease and skin problems is greater in fresh and brackish water.

“The deeper they get into the bay, the more acoustically confusing it becomes,” she said of the whale’s sense of direction.

The whales are migrating north after likely giving birth in the waters off Mexico and Central America, Schramm said.

Schramm’s biggest fear is that the giant visitors will go the way of Humphrey, a famous 40-ton humpback who caused pandemonium in 1985 when he swam through the Carquinez Strait, up the Sacramento River and into a creek.

Large numbers of whales were reported last year near the Golden Gate Bridge due to a concentration of anchovies.



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— Monterey Bay: Another dead whale found at Santa Cruz, California

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel and Monterey Herald,
May 4, 2015

NOTE: The Herald article is not on the home page and is difficult to find unless you have the link. It has been changed a lot from the print edition and it is missing these paragraphs about cause of death and investigation –

Milbury said it’s not clear what caused the whale’s death.

There is nothing external on the whale, like entanglement or ship strike marks, that indicate the cause of death,” Milbury said.

Karen Grimmer, NOAA’s resource protection coordinator in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said two NOAA officials took tissue samples from the whale to help determine its cause of death.

The Sentinel is missing this paragraph published in the Herald.

Karen Grimmer, NOAA’s resource protection coordinator in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said two NOAA officials took tissue samples from the whale to help determine its cause of death.

The article notes that a dead grey whale calf was found in April. Killer whales are in the bay. However, if they killed this calf, why wasn’t it eaten?

More photos online

By Stephen Baxter

A kayaker investigates the carcass of a humpback whale caught in the kelp off of West Cliff in Santa Cruz Tuesday morning. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ >> A dead 40-foot humpback whale caught the attention of residents and authorities off West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz late Monday and early Tuesday.

Leaders from Long Marine Lab launched a kayak on Tuesday to get a closer look at the whale, which was about a quarter mile off Woodrow Avenue and Columbia Street in a kelp bed.

Jim Milbury, a spokesman for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Tuesday afternoon that a decision had not yet been made whether to move the animal further offshore or to another location. Dead whales often attract sharks, and some residents expressed concern that sharks could endanger surfers at nearby Steamer Lane.

Don Kinnamon, senior deputy harbormaster of the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor, said authorities typically don’t intervene with dead whales off beaches.

Any time there’s a dead marine mammal, they let it take it’s natural course. The regular chain of predators will feed off it,” Kinnamon said Tuesday. “We’re not doing anything with it at this stage.”

Milbury said it’s not clear what caused the whale’s death.

There is nothing external on the whale, like entanglement or ship strike marks, that indicate the cause of death,” Milbury said.

Karen Grimmer, NOAA’s resource protection coordinator in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said two NOAA officials took tissue samples from the whale to help determine its cause of death.

The Coast Guard first received reports of the whale on Monday. It appeared to be drifting slowly toward Its Beach and Lighthouse Point.

The dead cetacean is at least the second whale to wash up on Santa Cruz County shores this year.

A dead gray whale calf beached itself at Hidden Beach in April. Its carcass then drifted to the Cement Ship off Seacliff State Beach, said photographer and boat captain Giancarlo Thomae.

White sharks are feeding on it,” Thomae said April 24. “Although it’s extremely rare for sharks to attack live whales, it’s very common for them to feed on the carcass.”

A dead 30-foot gray whale also washed up at Lower Trestles, a surfing beach south of San Clemente, last week. It was chopped up and taken to a landfill, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of gray whales are migrating north this time of year, authorities said.


http://www.montereyherald.com/general-news/20160504/dead-40-foot-humpback-whale-examined-by-authorities-in-santa-cruz/1 downloaded at 2:55 pm PT

Also, http://www.kionrightnow.com/news/local-news/dead-whale-of-west-cliff-may-be-the-result-of-more-orcas-in-the-monterey-bay/39366164

NOAA threatens to remove endangered species status from humpback whales — 90-day comment period

Threats to whales, sea life, and the oceans include:

  • The U.S. military is ramping up electromagnetic weapons and explosives testing in the oceans, with sonar buoys deployed along the West Coast.
  • Hazardous pesticides and fertilizers from agriculture, toxic industrial runoff, raw sewage continue dumping into the oceans
  • Fukushima pours greater amounts of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, with impacts through the Bering Strait to the Atlantic.
  • Europe continues dumping nuclear waste into the Atlantic
  • Dead zones are increasing across the globe.

Yet, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA – plans to reduce or eliminate protection to humpback whales.

NOAA spins this as a victory of conservation efforts and increased population levels for the species. Yet, this proposal would reduce or remove current levels of protection at a time when the oceans are in great jeopardy and the Pacific Ocean is dying.

Dead whales are already washing up along the West Coast. NOAA disregards the research on Fukushima and has refused to test the radiation in the ocean or in sea life.

The scientific basis of NOAA’s proposal is non-existent. NOAA is not about protecting the environment.

The real reason NOAA wants to do this is to cater to industry and the military which want less oversight over their already abusive and environmentally destructive activities.

The comment period is only 90 days.

Alert everyone you know who cares about the earth, especially the children. We can make a difference and stop this harmful proposal.

Here is the link to NOAA’s spin article


The proposal information from NOAA’s website:

You may submit comments, information, or data on this document, identified by the code NOAA-NMFS-2015-0035, by any of the following methods:

Electronic Submissions : Submit all electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0035 , click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

Mail: Submit written comments to Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

For general information on humpback whales, go to: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/whales/humpback-whale.html

To read the proposal’s Federal Register notice, go to: https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-09010