— ‘Heartbreaking’: Over 300 whales die in biggest recent stranding in New Zealand

From RT
February 10, 2017

More photos and videos at RT

‘Heartbreaking’: Over 300 whales die in biggest recent stranding in New Zealand (PHOTOS)

Most of the 415 whales that washed up on a narrow sand spit in Golden Bay, New Zealand died by Thursday night, while scores of volunteers armed with blankets struggled to keep the surviving animals wet to refloat them during a life-saving tide.

The mammals were scattered along the beach in Farewell Spit on the northwestern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, near the settlement on Puponga. Hundreds of volunteers joined the rescue operation, led by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

Gruesome images showing piles of dead mammals lying mere meters from the water have emerged on social media.

About 30 medics have been dispatched to the site of the stranding to take care of the whales joining the efforts with volunteers in keeping them cool and comfortable and preventing the refloated whales from coming back ashore with impromptu “human chains.” The call for help, posted by Project Jonah of Facebook, has seen a tremendous response from locals, with a road leading to the beach being jammed with cars of helpers, the New Zealand Herald reports.

“This is quite emotional – it’s encouraging to see the number of people who have come out to help … We’re going to give these whales the best chance we can,” said Louisa Hawkes, of the Project Jonah environmental organization, as cited by 1 News, which is running live updates on the large-scale rescue operation.

Messages of sympathy and support have been pouring in on Twitter in response to the tragic scenes.

While the majority of nearly a hundred pilot whales were successfully refloated on Friday morning, there is a high chance that the same whales could get stuck again.

“What they’re doing is milling around so we won’t know until mid-afternoon whether we’re going to have a restranding or not,” Andrew Lamason, DOC Golden Bay operations manager, said as cited by Stuff.

As of Friday afternoon (local time), the whales have been spotted returning back to the beach, with some of them getting caught in the sands again.

The current stranding become the third largest in the recorded history of such events in New Zealand. The biggest stranding, which saw around a thousand sea creatures beached on the Chatham Islands, dates back to 1918. The second largest occurred in Auckland in 1985, when some 450 whales ran ashore.

READ MORE: Over 190 pilot whales stranded on NZ beach, dozens die   in 2015

The Farewell Spit has been known as a notorious trap for the mammals. Last February, about 200 pilot whales got stranded on the beach there.



— TV reporter: “Woah! Dead whales!” Record high number of dead whales in Hawaii; “Carcasses scattered throughout islands”; low numbers of calves and cows off Hawaii, Philippines, Japan; “Possible health effects” from Fukushima radiation (VIDEO)

“Swimming through that for eight hours a day for an entire year could have possible health effects,”
Dr. Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

What do whales do for the other 16 hours a day, Dr. Buesseler? Stop the smoke and mirrors! 

Educational comments posted with the article as well. 

From ENE News

February 5, 2017

KGMB, Jan 17, 2017 (emphasis added): Officials investigate record number of humpback whale deaths… Six humpback whale carcasses have washed up onto Hawaii shores since November. That’s double the number typically found in a season, which runs from November to May… The previous record [of five] whale carcasses found in Hawaii waters was in 2013… Biologists aren’t sure what’s behind the increase in deaths. “It is higher than usual. It’s almost double this early in the season for what we’d get in a whole season,” said [NOAA’s] David Schofield… Since November, whale carcasses have been scattered throughout the main Hawaiian islandsBiologists are investigating to see if the whales starved or if there’s a problem with the ocean’s healthofficials will be meeting with partners in Alaska and Washington D.C. to investigate further.

KGMB reporter Mahealani Richardson, Jan 17, 2017: Woah! Dead whales! Wildlife officials are investigating a mystery over a record number of humpback whale deaths

Other recent whale deaths in Hawaii

KHON, Nov 22, 2016: Beached melon-headed whale euthanized on Maui… “The body condition was significantly compromised…” said [NOAA’s] Aliza Milette-Winfree… a necropsy will be done to determine what made it sick.

KHON, Oct 23, 2016: A pregnant dwarf sperm whale found dead on Maui’s Makena shoreline… this is very unusual because these whales normally live in deep waters… samples have been sent to the mainland to see if the whale also had any diseases… [NOAA] reported that a witness saw two small whales stranded in Makena…

AP, Aug 26, 2016: Experts are reporting the sighting of a sickly humpback whale off Maui. [NOAA’s] Malia Chow said Friday the animal is emaciated and covered in whale lice… She says the animal’s poor condition is a mystery.

Hakai Magazine, May 25, 2016: No-Show Pacific Ocean Humpbacks Stump Scientists… Whale researchers from around the Pacific are reporting that far fewer whales showed up in their usual wintering grounds…  [NOAA’s Ed Lyman] says he started noticing changes in December 2015… [He] was getting calls from tour boat operators asking where the whales were. “Something happened this year,” agrees Jim Darling, a researcher with the nonprofit Whale Trust Maui. “It almost seemed as if the females didn’t bother to show up”… the density of cows and calves was especially low… Darling also reported hearing from colleagues in the Philippines and Japan of similarly low whale numbers… Also striking was the low number of calves… Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, also saw fewer whales than normal says Oscar Frey, an oceanographer… he observed “the least number of mothers with babies that I have ever seen.”

How about in 2017? — The Garden Island, Jan 30, 2017: Annual whale count… [Jean Souza, HINMS Kauai programs coordinator] said the Kauai sites… saw an average of four whale viewings within a 15-minute time count period… down from the six sightings of the 2016 count.

Dr. Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Jan 7, 2017: “We know there can be health effects from exposure to any amount of radiation… the highest level we’ve seen north of Hawaii is 10 Becquerels per cubic meter. Swimming through that for eight hours a day for an entire year could have possible health effects, but that additional dose is one thousand times smaller than a single dental X-ray.”

Watch KGMB’s broadcast here

— More whales found dead along the Alaskan Coast — 3 in one week

From Alaska Public Media

Whale deaths near Anchorage, Glacier Bay prompt investigation
By Graelyn Brashear
July 1, 2016

Researchers are trying to determine what caused the deaths of three large whales found along Alaska’s coastline within a single week in late June, and whether the fatal strandings might be related to a big spike in whale deaths in the region last year.

A fin whale died in Knik Arm near Anchorage on June 22. Four days later, a humpback was found dead off Point Carolus in Glacier Bay National Park. Two days after that, another humpback was found in Turnagain Arm near Hope.

Investigators with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and partner groups have taken tissue samples from all three whales. The Glacier Bay humpback, which had been observed by scientists since the late 1960s and was nicknamed “Festus,” may provide the most clues, because researchers were able to conduct a full necropsy.

British Columbia veterinary pathologist Steven Raverty led the postmortem, and said there was no evidence of skull or other bone fractures, but there were indications the whale wasn’t healthy.

Whales usually have copepod parasites known as whale lice, Raverty said, “and this animal had probably the most abundant numbers that we’ve seen in animals that have stranded throughout the area. And it would tend to suggest that the animal may have been debilitated or there was some degree of immunosuppression.”

In addition, he said, the whale had diminished fat reserves, which may mean it wasn’t consuming enough food.

NOAA officials don’t know if these recent deaths are related to the dozens of whale deaths in the Gulf of Alaska last year. Those 2015 strandings were labeled an “unusual mortality event,” and the cause is still under investigation. It could be a difficult mystery to solve, because so many of the carcasses were too decomposed or too remote to study.

Raverty said the recent whale deaths could help researchers to better understand last year’s die-off.

“We look at these individuals that are now stranding in 2016 as a really unique opportunity to try and establish baseline health and understanding, whether there may be evidence of ship strike, infectious disease, exposure to harmful algal blooms, and these will all be put in the context of what had occurred historically, but also during the unusual mortality event,” he said.

Tissue samples from all three whales have been sent to labs for analysis, but it’s not clear when researchers will know more about how and why they died.

Whale deaths near Anchorage, Glacier Bay prompt investigation

— 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.



Posted under Fair Use Rules.




Dead whales washing up in Southern California

Two dead whales and “it was Mother Nature taking its course.” Really? Just like all the dead marine mammals washing up along the coast?

And there will be a lot more than dead whales when those nuclear waste containers crack open that are being buried on the beach at San Onofre.

From Orange County Register

Dead whale washed up at popular surf spot

by Laylan Connelly

April 24, 2016

A dead whale washed up Sunday on the cobblestone beach at Lower Trestles, a popular surf spot just south of San Clemente.

Todd Mansur, a boat captain for Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, said he has seen two dead whales off Orange County’s shoreline in recent days.

He said he saw the one that washed up at Trestles as it neared the water line, and the other one is expected to wash up at San Clemente State Beach in the next few days.

Both whales were estimated to be larger than 40 feet.

Mansur said that from what he saw, it was Mother Nature taking its course.

“It looked like nature. There were no marks from ships, no propeller marks, no abrasions, no entanglements,” he said.

Mansur was heading a whale watching charter and asked passengers how they felt about stopping to see the carcass.

“They were actually interested, kind of scientifically, about it. I really wanted to check it out to see if there was a reason of death,” he said.

He inspected it for about 15 minutes.

“It didn’t even look like it was a day dead,” he said.

Mansur said he has seen great white sharks eating whale carcasses.

And with the number of great whites sticking around Orange County’s coastline because of the warm El Niño waters, it might be a good idea for surfers to stay clear of the area for a while, he said.

The presence of other predators rises when dead animals are near, he said.

“You should always be worried when an animal of that magnitude is on the coastline,” Mansur said. “That element of the unknown can be there.”

Surfers were taking to social media to warn others about the whale. State lifeguards were not available to comment, so it was unclear what would be done with the whale carcass.

Contact the writer: lconnelly@ocregister.com


Monterey Bay: “anchovies…some of the last along California’s coast”, plankton levels low, whales searching for food, squid disappearing, starving marine life — ecosystem in collapse

Posted on ENE News:

Monterey Herald, Nov 3, 2015 (emphasis added): Local whale watching tour companies and conservationists claim the anchovy population has “collapsed” due to environmental reasons… Fishing groups disagree, though they note the bay has seen some dramatic environmental changes.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Oct 30, 2015: Monterey Bay anchovy numbers in decline, groups say… “Since late September, the whale numbers have decreased, their behavior has changed and their food, anchovies, are less abundant,” said Nancy Black, marine biologist… Whale watching tour companies and conservationists claim the anchovy population has “collapsed” due to environmental reasons… The fishing industry says that’s not the case though ocean conditions have been unusual. Some scientists, however, are finding a drastic decline in the forage fish… [Pacific Fishery Management Council staff officer Mike Burner said,] “The council’s definitely concerned with some of the things they’ve heard.”… “The population has truly collapsed,” [said] William Sydeman, president and senior scientist at the Farallon Institute. “There’s no way fishing could have that kind of impact, so it had to be environmental.”… plankton populations are low, affecting their predators up the marine food chain… “When anchovy numbers are low, they crowd at the coast and appear to be abundant,” Sydeman said… At the same time, the lack of anchovies offshore are maybe in part why scores of sea lions and sea birdsare starving up and down the coast. “Right now we’re seeing that the whales are more scattered and seem to be looking harder for food,” said Dorris Welch, marine biologist…

Monterey Herald, Oct 19, 2015: Plenty of anchovies in Monterey Bay, but maybe not elsewhereMarket squid are disappearing, and in their place, fishing boats are reeling in piles of anchovies. But while they appear abundant, conservation groups warn that the forage fish may be at their lowest levels since the 1950s. “It’s an anomalous year,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. [Oceana’s Geoff Shester said,] “new information shows that the stock is at such a low level right now, it’s literally in a state of collapse.” Survey cruises conducted by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center detected little to no anchovy eggs from 2010 to 2013… Sit on the docks where anchovies are sorted and you’ll likely see lots of the silvery fish piling up. But it’s a mirage, warns William Sydeman, ecologist of the Farallon Institute, who coauthored the paper that estimated anchovies at low levels. “People think that if they’re in Monterey Bay, they must be everywhere,” Sydeman said. “They’re not. They’re only in Monterey Bay.” Sydeman said anchovies tend to aggregate near shore when their numbers are low…

KION, Oct 21, 2015: California’s last anchovies crowd in the Monterey Bay; Researchers say a massive decline of the fish is throwing off the ecosystem — Several conservation groups and whale watching operators are very concerned about the anchovies in the Monterey Bay… Recently, fishermen have been hauling out 120 tons of anchovies every night, but those anchovies are some of the last along California’s coast… “The anchovy abundance out here, and off the entire state, has gotten to some of the lowest we’ve seen since the 1950s,” [Oceana’s Geoff Shester] said. “Scientists are calling it an actual collapse.”… Anchovies are an important part of the ecosystem. That’s why these groups say if nothing is done, there could be long-term impacts. “We’re really worried that right now we are seeing major die-offs of sea lion pups and pelicans because they’re starving and not able to reproduce,” Shester said. “And that’s because there’s not enough sardines and anchovies out there.” “We’ve noticed the numbers of whales have dropped significantly,” [marine biologist Nancy Black] said.

Watch KION’s broadcast here


• Whale washes ashore in 12th recent death in California

This is addition to all the sea life deaths, illnesses, and anomalies,  from sea stars and sea jellies, to starving seal, sea lion pups, pelicans, and sea birds, to crashing sardine and oyster populations.

Very few marine biologists will mention Fukushima.

From KSBW, May 27, 2015

POINT REYES STATION, Calif. —Another dead whale washed ashore in Northern California, the 12th carcass that has appeared in the past few months and marks a higher-than-normal number of deaths.

The dozen whales have been found along nearly 300 miles of coastline and are of different species and various ages. In a typical year, one or two gray whales wash ashore, said Frances Gulland, the senior scientist for the Marine Mammal Center.

The most recent animal appeared Tuesday on a beach along the Point Reyes National Seashore, officials said. It’s badly decomposed and headless, making identifying the species and its age difficult, said Mary Jane Schramm, spokeswoman for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

“(The condition) suggests it could be a killer whale attack,” she said. Scientists are trying to determine if there is a connection between the beached whales, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. They are considering factors such as environmental changes, food distribution, shipping and predator behavior.

“We are seeing them coming from so many different species and various causes of death,” Schramm said. “One of the reasons we are seeing such a cluster at one time is we have very strong winds that have been blowing consistently that are washing things onto shore.”

Scientists say the deaths could be part of the annual gray whale migration from Mexico to Alaska, the newspaper reported. At least one of the whales showed evidence of being hit by a ship. Two others were missing limbs, which indicates they got tangled in fishing gear or attacked by killer whales.

The latest beached whale appeared a few days after a 28-foot juvenile gray whale washed up on the Sonoma County coast. Last week, a gray whale carcass appeared in Half Moon Bay as officials buried a sperm whale and a humpback whale.

In April, two gray whales got beached in Santa Cruz County, a killer whale was found near Fort Bragg and a gray whale washed up in Monterey County.

Many of the dead were gray whales, but they were so badly decomposed that researchers have not been able to determine how they died, Gulland said.

The last large increase in whale deaths was in 1999 and 2000, when 40 dead gray whales were found on beaches in the Bay Area, she said.