Natural Environment Blog

Blogging for the Natural Environment

Month: November 2008 (Page 1 of 6)

Mass Stranding Kills 150 Whales

A mass stranding has claimed the lives of 150 pilot whales on a beach in the Australian state of Tasmania.

While the media initially reported 80 casualties, a body count on Sunday reveals that the number is actually 150. 

The beached whales were discovered on Saturday near Sandy Cape. The coastline where they were stranded is very rocky, which makes any rescue effort all the more difficult.

According to Warwick Brennan from the Department of Primary Industries and Water, volunteers from the community and six department staff tried to save the whales, but they were too badly injured by the rocky coastline.

Blood stains the water as rescuers desperately try to save 150 stranded whales.

Blood stains the water as rescuers desperately try to save 150 stranded whales. Photo: The Examiner, Tasmania

30 Whales Saved

Although the rescuers were unable to save the 150 beached whales, they were able to prevent another 30 whales from coming ashore.

The whales were milling around offshore but drawing closer to the coastline, where one stranded whale appeared to be calling out to the pod. 

“Our first priority was to try to stop other animals from stranding so we decided to move the animal still calling onshore further up the beach and away from the pod to see if that made any difference,” explained Mr Brennan.

“Unfortunately, that whale died but what happened then was those 30 whales milling around seemed more willing to move on and with a boat in the water we managed to shepherd them out of the bay.

“Hopefully, those animals now will move on.”

More Strandings Expected

This weekend’s stranding comes only a week after another mass stranding in Tasmania. Last weekend, 53 pilot whales died in a mass stranding at Anthony’s Beach.

And according to Mr Brennan, we should expect more in the near future. He says that whale strandings in Tasmania are becoming more and more common. 

“We go through periods where we are dealing with strandings every 12 days.” he said.

“That runs from a single animal stranding to these mass strandings and, at this time of year, it seems to be especially busy.”

Cause Of Whale Strandings

The cause of whale strandings has been the subject of much scientific debate. Theories range from noise related causes such as acoustic smog and seaquakes, to whales simply following their prey into shallow waters. 

Although whale strandings are never a good thing, future strandings will hopefully provide us with more clues on what causes the strandings in the first place. The more we know about the causes of whale strandings the more we’ll be able to forecast and prevent them.

Is Coal Really That Cheap? Greenpeace Reveals The True Cost Of Coal

As environmentalists push for “green” energy, the coal industry continues to emphasize the fact that coal is cheaper than its greener alternatives. 

But is coal really as cheap as we think it is?

Greenpeace has released a report that reveals the true cost that coal is having on the world at large.

Entitled The True Cost Of Coal: How people and the planet are paying the price for the world’s dirtiest fuel, the report shows that coal is costing the world around €360 billion per year.

Over the next ten years this would translate into €3.6 trillion – roughly $US4.6 trillion. 

The Hidden Costs

In calculating the figure, Greenpeace looked at the external costs of coal, such as costs arising from mining accidents, acid rain, and more.

The report says:

Traditionally considered the cheapest fuel around, the market price for coal ignores its most significant impacts. These so-called “external costs” manifests themselves as damages such as respiratory diseases, mining accidents, acid rain, smog pollution, reduced agricultural yields and climate change.

Greenpeace explains that the the harm caused by mining and burning coal is not reflected in its price per tonne or its costs for a kWh of electricity, but the world at large is nevertheless paying for it.

Coal’s Impact On Climate Change

The report also explains that coal burning contributes more to climate change than any other fossil fuel, and that coal-fired power stations produce 11 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. 

Greenpeace emphasizes that our decisions regarding coal is not something we should take lightly:

As the single largest source of CO2 emissions, the manner in which we deal with coal in the coming years will determine whether we can respond adequately to the climate crisis.

And, our decisions of today, will have an ongoing impact for years to come:

A coal plant built today will emit CO2 pollution for at least the next 40 years.

Dirty Coal vs Clean Coal?

And Greenpeace is not impressed by so called “clean coal”, where carbon from the burning coal is captured and stored underground.

Greenpeace says that, even if it were a feasible option, there isn’t enough time to deploy Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) plants.

The earliest possibility for deployment of CCS at a useful scale is not expected until at least 2030, while global greenhouse gas emissions must start falling after 2015 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change 

Greenpeace believes that CCS is providing an unwelcome distraction in the discussion on reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

Those peddling technological fixes – such as carbon capture and storage which claims to make coal clean and safe for the climate – create a dangerous distraction as the world seeks truly sustainable solutions that will reduce emissions and protect our climate. It is only by quitting coal and increasing energy efficiency and production of renewable energy that we will prevent catastrophic climate change. 

Coal Must Be Phased Out

The strong message in the report is that coal must be phased out, and proposed coal-fired power stations must not go ahead.

Instead, Greenpeace emphasizes that renewable energy and energy efficiency must be the way forward:

Given the availability of alternatives such as renewable energy and energy efficiency, which can meet our energy needs in a safe and climate-friendly way, there is no need to continue relying on coal. We must reduce our dependence on this dirty fuel and abandon plans to build new coal-fired power stations. 

So, given the true cost of coal, the report makes the argument for renewable energy even more compelling.

Full Report [PDF document]

Shell Oil Company Catches ‘Alien’ Squid on Camera

The alien-like Magnapinna squid, captured on remote video camera by the Shell Oil Company.

The 'alien-like' Magnapinna squid, captured on remote video camera by the Shell Oil Company.

An “alien-like” squid has been caught on camera, 2.5 kilometers underwater, in the Gulf of Mexico by the Shell Oil Company.

The video footage, recorded from a camera on a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), shows a rare Magnapinna squid with it’s long, shoulder-like arms dangling down below it. 

The footage, which had been circulating through the oil industry via email since November 2007 when it was taken, hadn’t been made public until National Geographic got hold of it earlier this week.

The squid has been dubbed the “Perdido squid” due to the fact that it was filmed at the Peridido drilling site. 

Species Unknown

Although it clearly belongs to the Magnapinna genus, it’s unclear which species the Peridido squid actually is. Both the M. M. atlantica and M. pacifica are known to inhabit the Gulf of Mexico so it is likely to be one of those.

This is the first time a Magnapinna squid has been sighted at an oil drilling site. 

Not much is known about the various Magnapinna species, as no intact adult specimen has ever been captured. 

Scientists speculate that their long arms are possibly used for feeding purposes. One theory is that the squid drags its arms along the seafloor to capture prey.  Another theory is that the squid simply waits for prey to get stuck on it’s long, dangly arms.

Due to the expense and difficulty in shooting underwater footage at these depths, some scientists have been entering formal partnerships with oil companies to share camera time on corporate ROVs.

Here’s the actual video footage taken from the ROV:

Amazon Deforestation Accelerates for First Time in 4 Years

Destruction of the Brazillian Amazon rainforest has accelerated over the 2007/2008 period, according to The National Institute For Space Research (INPE).

Satellite images by the Institute reveals that 4,633 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) of rainforest was destroyed from August 2007 through July 2008. That’s an area roughly the size of the state of Connecticut in the United States. 

This is an increase from the 2006/2007 figure of 4,332 square miles (11,224 square kilometers).

As dissapointing as the increase is, it is still well below the record figure of 10,570 square miles (27,379 square kilomters) recorded in 2004. 

Positive Outlook for the Future

Environment Minister Carlos Minc says that, although he is not happy with the 2008 figure, he is sure it would have been much worse without government policies aimed at tackling illegal logging.

“Many had expected an increase of 30-40 percent and we managed to stabilize it,” he said.

“When you confiscate soy and beef it hurts them in the pocket,” he continued.

Mr Minc is referring to confiscated farm products from illegally cleared land as well as cut financing for unregistered properties.

“Today’s figures are unacceptable but the long-term trend remains positive and they show that it is possible to do something about deforestation,” said Paulo Moutinho, coordinator at the Amazon Research Institute.

More Needs to be Done

Moutinho also believes that more needs to be done to discourage deforestation.

“We need to make it more expensive to cut a tree than to preserve it” he said.

This is a sentiment shared by Prince Charles, who launched his Prince’s Rainforest Project last year in order to make rainforests more valuable alive than dead.

Prince Charles has said “It seems to me that the central issue in this whole debate is how we put a true value on standing rainforests to the world community”.

One way of doing this, according to Canopy Capital, is to place a price on the services that rainforests provide to the wider community.

Iceberg Breakthrough Provides Hope For Improved Climate Change Models

Scientists have made a breakthrough in determining what actually causes ice shelves in the Antarctic and Greenland to break apart, resulting in icebergs and contributing to increased sea levels.

The findings, reported in the latest edition of the Science journal, could lead to improved climate change models, as scientists will now be able to predict more accurately where icebergs will “calve off” from their parent ice shelves.

Scientists have discovered the main factor to cause ice to calve away from ice sheets, creating icebergs, and resulting in higher sea levels. Photo: Kim Hansen..

Scientists have discovered the main factor to cause ice to calve away from ice sheets, creating icebergs, and resulting in higher sea levels. Photo: Kim Hansen.

The term “calving” in this context, refers to ice breaking off the ice shelves and landing in the ocean, causing icebergs to form. Typically, a shelf front will extend forward for years or decades between major calving events. 

Until now, the main problem for scientists was determining where an ice shelf was to calve. At what point does an ice shelf have so much ice hanging over the ocean that it starts to break off?

What made this a particularly difficult question was that, there didn’t seem to be a common size between ice shelves. For example, the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica hangs over the ocean for as much as 500 miles. Other ice shelves only extend for a mile or two before breaking up.

The Need For A Law For Ice Shelf Calving

To date there hasn’t been a law based on physical principles that explains ice shelf calving.

“To predict the future of the ice sheet and to understand the past, we have to put the information into a computer,” says Richard B. Alley, the Evan Pugh professor of geosciences. “The models we have do not currently have any way to figure out where the big ice sheets end and where the ice calves off to form icebergs.”

Because of this, the scientists searched for the most important variable that determines where an ice shelf will break off into the ocean – not an easy task according to professor Alley. 

“Fracture-mechanics problems are invariably difficult,” he says.

“Earthquake prediction comes to mind, or guessing whether a tea cup pushed off the table will break or bounce upon hitting the floor. With the tea cup, a drop from 1 mm high won’t break it, and a drop from 100 m almost surely will — one term, the height of the drop, explains a whole lot of the behavior.” he added.

“Our hope was to find such a dominant term in calving of bergs from ice shelves.” 

Simple Law for Ice Shelf Calving

The scientists believe they have found a dominant term that can be used to forecast ice shelf calving.

In the tea cup example, the height of the tea cup was the dominant term. With ice shelves, the scientists found that the spreading tendency in the direction of ice and berg motion was the dominant term.

The equation is the rate of spreading times the width of the shelf times thickness multiplied by a constant.

In other words, it is the rate at which ice shelves spread that is the most important variable that determines when an ice shelve is about to calve.

“The spreading rate can be calculated from ice thickness and a few other things that are already solved for in numerical models, so we have provided a practicable calving law,” said Alley. “At present, models rarely if ever calculate physically where the ice ends, instead stopping the model before the ice ends or using some other relation that is not fully physical.” 

Global Warming

Armed with this knowledge, scientists will be in a better position to forecast the impact of global warming on sea levels.

Computer models will be able to use this information to better predict how ice sheets will behave in warmer temperatures.

Scientists recently predicted that sea temperatures would rise by over a meter by the end of this century.

Live Earth India To Include Bon Jovi, Roger Waters and Will.i.am

Jon Bon Jovi (above) will be bringing his band, Bon Jovi, to Live Earth India, being held on 07 December. Photo: Artur Bogdanski.

Jon Bon Jovi (above) will be bringing his band, Bon Jovi, to Live Earth India, being held on 07 December. Photo: Artur Bogdanski.

Live Earth has announced the artists that will perform for Live Earth India on December 07 this year.

Famous international and local musicians will perform at the concert that will be broadcast live around the world on the internet. 

The Lineup

The full lineup to date is:

  • Bon Jovi
  • Amitabh Bachchan
  • Roger Waters (from Pink Floyd)
  • will.i.am (from Black Eyed Peas)
  • Anoushka Shankar
  • Abhishek Bachchan
  • Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
  • Hrithik Roshan
  • Preity Zinta
  • Bipasha Basu
  • Shiamak Davar
  • Farhan Akhtar
  • Arjun Rampal
  • Purab Kohli
  • Hard Kaur
  • Jalebee Cartel
  • Vishal & Shekhar
  • Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
  • Sunidhi Chauhan
  • Sonu Nigam
  • Shaan

The show will include appearances and messages from former U.S Vice President Al Gore, IPCC Chairman and Director General TERI India, Dr. Rajendra K Pachauri, and various environmental advocates and celebrities.

About Live Earth India

Live Earth India is a concert being held in India to raise awareness for our planet’s urgent environmental crisis.

“Live Earth’s mission is to leverage the power of music and entertainment to focus the world’s attention on the most pressing environmental issues of our time and then actively affect change. The addition of these celebrated and influential artists will increase the force of our event and shine a spotlight on the challenges and opportunities surrounding climate change issues in India.” said Kevin Wall, Live Earth founder.

Live Earth India will be the second Live Earth concert to date. The first Live Earth concert, “Live Earth: the Concerts for a Climate in Crisis”, which was held on 07/07/07, was the “Most Watched Online Entertainment Event Ever.”

The concerts were hosted on seven continents, broadcast in 132 countries, and inspired 2 billion people worldwide to engage with the issues and the solutions surrounding the global climate crisis.

This year’s concert is to be held at Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai, India on 07 December. As with last year’s event, Live Earth India will be broadcast by MSN.

Attending/Watching The Event

To attend the concert in Mumbai, you can book tickets online through BookMyShow.com 

If you are unable to attend the concert in person, you can watch it online at msnindia.com/liveearth.

5,000-acre ‘Environmental Jewel’ Finally Protected

The Bald Eagle is one of the many endangered species to inhabit Hatchineha Ranch, which has been protected by The Nature Conservancy and Hatchineha Ranch LLC. Photo: Paul Resh..

The Bald Eagle is one of the many endangered species to inhabit Hatchineha Ranch, which has been protected by The Nature Conservancy and Hatchineha Ranch LLC. Photo: Paul Resh..

The Nature Conservancy and Hatchineha Ranch LLC just announced that they have protected a 5,134 acre “evironmental jewel” in Central Florida in the United States. 

Hatchineha Ranch, 65 miles east of Tampa and 40 miles south of Orlando, is located within one of the highest concentrations of threatened and endangered plant and animal species in the United States.

The site had been proposed for “Hatchineha Lakes” – a development that, if approved, would have included 5,200 homes and apartments, a small commercial development and an 18-hole golf course. 

Now the land will be restored and preserved.

“This acquisition not only preserves an outstanding natural landscape from development, it connects a complex of conservation lands critical for protection of the headwaters of the Kissimmee River and the Everglades basin,” said Jeff Danter, The Nature Conservancy’s state director.

“We are grateful to the owner for helping us to implement our primary strategy for the northern Everglades, which is to protect natural landscapes with high biological diversity and opportunities for hydrological restoration.”

The Deal

The deal, which has been in negotiation for the past couple of months, has been labelled “a pretty creative deal” by Ernie Cox, Hatchineha Lakes representative. 

As part of the deal, Hatchineha Ranch LLC donated 1,130 acres of the ranch to the Conservancy and the Conservancy purchased a partial interest in the remaining 4,004 acres.

The Nature Conservancy explains that, as tenants in common, the Conservancy and Hatchineha Ranch LLC will jointly pursue multiple strategies for long-term conservation, including wetlands mitigation, conservation banking for imperiled species, and the sale of lands to government agencies as additions to adjacent public holdings.

Cox hopes the deal will provide an example for other landowners.

“If we can monetize restoration efforts, it will offer a stronger incentive,” he said.

Past Conservation Attempts

This is not the first time protection has been sought on the land. The Polk County Board of Commissioners and the South Florida Water Management District have been trying for years to purchase the land for preservation.

“This is fantastic news for environmental lands preservation in Polk County,” said Jeff Spence, Polk County Natural Resources Division director. “Due to its key location, outstanding beauty and great diversity, the county had targeted this particular piece of property for preservation more than 15 years ago. Several past attempts to acquire it were unsuccessful.”

Steve Morrison, who grew up on the Lake Wales Ridge and manages The Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve shares this sentiment.

“This is such great news. I’ve had my heart broken by that place so many times,” he said.

“We’ve tried for so many years to get it into conservation, and every time it would sell again for more money, I would think, ‘There it goes’.”

Numerous Restoration Opportunities

The Nature Conservancy says there are numerous opportunities for habitat restoration including:

  • the restoration of cutthroat grass seeps, an imperiled natural community that has been affected by ditching for agricultural purposes 
  • the restoration of Catfish Creek, a historical tributary of the Kissimmee River which was diverted decades ago for the creation of pasture and sod farming

Among the endangered species that inhabit the site include the Bald Eagle, Florida scrub-jay, sand skink, crested caracara, gopher tortoise and southeastern kestrel. Also, the Florida panther has been said to use the land at some point. 

Jeff Danter labelled the purchase as “one of the most significant acquisitions in the Florida chapter’s history,”.

‘Disgraceful’ Conservation Group Accused Of Pushing Tuna Towards Extinction

Bluefin tuna is at risk of extinction following ICCATs decision to ignore advice from its own scientists.

Tuna is at risk of extinction following ICCAT's decision to ignore advice from its own scientists, say conservation groups.

A decision by an international organization charged with protecting tuna has been slammed by conservation groups for doing the exact opposite.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species, recently implemented a catch quota as much as 60% higher than its own scientists had recommended.

ICCAT’s own scientists had recommended a total allowable catch (TAC) of 8,500 to 15,000 tonnes per year. ICCAT ignored this advice and opted for a TAC of 22,000 for 2009.

The catch quota essentially places a restriction on how much the tuna industry is allowed to catch. Without a strict quota, tuna, known for fetching high prices, would almost certainly become extinct.

Obviously, the extinction of tuna would lead to the collapse of the tuna industry so, any ICCAT decision has a direct impact on the future of tuna fisheries, as well as the survival of the species itself.

Greenpeace’s Response

Greenpeace says ICCAT has lived up to it’s reputation as an “international disgrace” and has labelled the decision as “Shameless. Disastrous.” 

It says that this year’s annual meeting in Marrakech “looked more like a bazaar, in which buyers haggled over the last remaining tuna, than an international meeting”.

Greenpeace blames the decision on the European Union.

The European Union, representing the majority of Mediterranean countries with interests in the bluefin tuna fishery,  bullied other parties in the meeting into agreeing to management proposals which completely fail to follow the advice of ICCAT’s own scientific body to substantially reduce fishing and protect the species’ spawning grounds.

“The game is over – ICCAT has missed its last chance to save the bluefin tuna from stock collapse,” said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain Oceans Campaigner, who attended the Marrakech meeting. “Bluefin tuna has become an endangered species because of ICCAT mismanagement. It’s time to take the fishery out of their hands and look to Conventions like CITES to impose trade restrictions on the species.”

“These past seven days have demonstrated that ICCAT is a farce,” Losada concluded.

Further, Greenpeace has demanded a closure of the fishery until a proper recovery plan is in place. In particular, Greenpeace wants to see:

  • a Total Allowed Catch (TAC) in line with the scientific advice
  • a seasonal closure covering the months of May, June and July
  • the establishment of marine reserves to protect the bluefin tuna spawning grounds

WWF’s Response

WWF has labelled the decision “a disgrace”.

“This is not a decision, it is a disgrace which leaves WWF little choice but to look elsewhere to save this fishery from itself,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, head of WWF Mediterranean’s fisheries programme.

“Any alternative is preferable to an organization which boasts of its respect for science but where in a decade catches have gone from twice to four times the scientific recommendations, with massive legal and illegal overfishing. It is clear that the only thing to slow the fishery with ICCAT at the helm is running out of fish.”

As with Greenpeace, WWF has been pushing for a suspension in the tuna fishery. This option has also been endorsed by the recent World Conservation Congress and recommended by ICCAT’s own internal high-level review. 

WWF has also been pushing for more protection of bluefin tuna.

“WWF will also actively push for a listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the hope that stringent trade controls tied explicitly to the survival of the species will turn around the half-hearted attempt at fisheries management shown here by ICCAT and especially its European contingent.” says Dr Tudela.

An Ongoing Problem

This is not the first time ICCAT has ignored advice from its own scientists.

In 2006, ICCAT set a TAC of 29,500 tonnes, despite its own scientists recommending a sustainable limit of 15,000 tonnes. Since then, ICCAT’s scientists estimate that actual tuna catches in 2007 were 61,000 tonnes.

Following the concerns of the international community, ICCAT appointed a panel to conduct an independent review of ICCAT [PDF document].

The panel had the following to say about ICCAT’s performance:

  • Fundamentally ICCAT’s performance to date does not meet its objectives for several of the species under its purview.
  • ICCAT’s failure to meet its objectives is due in large part to the lack of compliance by many of its CPCs.
  • CPCs have consistently failed to provide timely and accurate data and to implement monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) arrangements on nationals and national companies.
  • The judgement of the international community will be based largely on how ICCAT manages fisheries on bluefin tuna (BFT). ICCAT CPCs’ performance in managing fisheries on bluefin tuna particularly in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea is widely regarded as an international disgrace and the international community which has entrusted the management of this iconic species to ICCAT deserve better performance from ICCAT than it has received to date.
  • There are concerns about transparency within ICCAT both in decision making and in resource allocation. 
  • Most of the problems and challenges ICCAT faces would be simple to fix if CPCs developed the political will to fully implement and adhere to the letter and spirit of the rules and recommendations of ICCAT.

The review found that ICCAT has failed to meet its objectives, but blames this on its members (CPCs).

A simple reading of the state of the stocks under ICCAT’s purview would suggest that ICCAT has failed in its mandate as a number of these key fish stocks are well below MSY. However, the Panel is of the view that rather than ICCAT failing in its mandate it is ICCAT that has been failed by its members (CPCs).

The review concluded that the members’ attitudes need to change.

…the problems of ICCAT would be readily fixed or considerably improved if CPCs changed their attitude towards implementation of and adherence to the rules and recommendations of ICCAT and the adoption of robust Monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) processes.

New Snake Species Discovered In Honduras

The newly described Typhlops tycherus is the largest blindsnake in Mesoamerica. Photo: Josiah Townsend.

The newly described Typhlops tycherus is the largest blind snake in Mesoamerica. Photo: Josiah Townsend.

A blind snake previously unknown to science has been discovered in Honduras and described in the latest edition of the Zootaxa journal. 

The new species, called Typhlops tycherus, was found dead at the side of the road in February this year.

The snake was found in the Zona de Amortiguamiento (buffer zone) of Parque Nacional Montaña de Santa Bárbara, Departamento de Santa Bárbara, Honduras.

At a total length of 371 mm, the Typhlops tycherus is the largest blind snake in Mesoamerica.

According to the authors, other factors that differentiate this snake from other Mesoamerican Typhlops is that it has 22–22–22 scales around the body and it has a dark brownish gray dorsum with a well-defined pale yellowish gray to immaculate white ventral coloration.

The snake was described by Josiah Townsend, Larry Wilson, Lorraine Ketzler, and Ileara Luque-Montes.


11 Beached Whales Rescued By Volunteers

Rescuers help a beached pilot whale in Tasmania, Australia. Photo: Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry and Water.

Rescuers help a beached pilot whale in Tasmania, Australia. Photo: Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry and Water.

Australian volunteers have helped save 11 pilot whales from death in a mass stranding on a beach in Tasmania, Australia.

Around 60 volunteers joined 15 government officers to keep the beached whales alive while transporting them to a nearby beach with deeper water. 

The whales were found stranded on Saturday at Anthony’s Beach, near Stanley on the north-west coast of Tasmania, Australia.

53 Whales Died

In total, 64 mothers and calves were stranded, but only 12 were alive when they were found.

The rescuers spent the night keeping the remaining whales from overheating by splashing water over them. Out of the 12 remaining whales, one died while being returned to the water at Godfreys Beach, around 17 kilometers away. 

An Outstanding Effort

While 11 surviving whales vs 53 dead whales might not sound like an outstanding success, whale rescue efforts are known for their low success rates. Many efforts fail to save even one beached whale.   

“The efforts of the volunteers and the Circular Head community has been outstanding.” said Parks and Wildlife Services manager Chris Arthur, who co-ordinated the rescue effort.

“They gave up a weekend. People got sunburnt. People got engaged with these animals,” he said.

“We used specially built car trailers, which we were able to put up to two whales in each. And we transported those animals 17 kilometres (11 miles) to Godfrey’s Beach,” Arthur said.

Satellite Tracking

Before the whales were released back into the sea, the team attached satellite trackers to their dorsel fins. This will help the team keep track of the whales’ progress.

The satellite trackers can transmit the whales’ location to a datacenter in France. The team is then able to access that information from Australia.  

Great Progress So Far

According to data received from the satellite this morning, the whales’ progress looks good so far. Information from the satellite showed that the whales were swimming east across Bass Strait.

“Even though we released the whales because of the weather conditions over about a three-hour period, it [the satellite data] told us that those whales did regroup at sea.” said Rosemary Gales, a scientist involved in the rescue effort.

“We can’t keep track of the whales in the boats when they power off and they disappear into the distance but we now know from the satellite information that they did regroup and they have been travelling together as a pod – which is absolutely fantastic news because it does make us think that the rescue was a success.” she continued.

Mystery

Whale beachings occur periodically across Australia and New Zealand. The reason why whales beach themselves remains a mystery. Some scientists believe that it’s due to acoustic smog – human made noise that can disorientate whales and other marine life.

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