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Let’s do offshore wind power the right way!

‘It is essential to identify where whales, dolphins and other species occur to help avoid adverse impacts and to continue to monitor their response to the construction and operation of wind turbines’

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Offshore wind turbines could provide most of the power for North American cities.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Many of the conflicts between energy development and wildlife protection developed because there wasn’t enough upfront planning. Researchers with the University of Maryland say similar issues relating to offshore wind energy can be minimized with early monitoring.

“As the number and size of offshore wind developments increases, there is a growing need to consider the consequences and cumulative impacts of these activities on marine species,” said Helen Bailey, lead author and research assistant professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

“It is essential to identify where whales, dolphins and other species occur to help avoid adverse impacts and to continue to monitor their response to the construction and operation of wind turbines,” Bailey said. Continue reading

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Are California sea otters on the verge of recovery?

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Can sea otters bounce back from the brink?

Population along California coast hovering near targeted recovery level

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sea otters are making a slow and steady comeback along the Central California coast, with the species’ population nearing a level that could earn them the distinction of being taken off the endangered species list.

In the latest official population estimate released last week, federal scientists said there were just under 3,000 southern sea otters living along the Central California coast, based on a population index used since the 1980s. That’s up slightly from 2013 and just shy of the 3,090 threshold set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a recovery benchmark. Continue reading

Global warming once again forces walruses ashore

PHOTO U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren't adapted. Scientists say they've documented several cases of young calves being trampled in stampedes.

PHOTO via U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY. Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren’t adapted. Scientists say they’ve documented several cases of young calves being trampled in stampedes.

Dwindling sea ice leads to dramatic habitat changes for some marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — For the sixth time in the last eight years, Pacific walruses living around Alaska have run out of ice. Instead of their usual resting places on ice floes, the marine mammals are hauling out on land — a clear consequence of global warming, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists who are tracking the animals from the air.

Just in the past decade, summer sea ice has started retreating far north of the shallow continental shelf waters of the Chukchi Sea in U.S. and Russian waters, drastically changing living conditions for walruses and other species.To keep up with their normal resting periods between feeding bouts to the seafloor, walruses are taking to dry land. Continue reading

Report claims Florida’s fast-track permitting for boat launches ignores impacts to manatees

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Florida manatees. bberwyn photo.

Feds consider changing manatee status from endangered to threatened

Staff Report

FRISCO — Gentle, slow-moving manatees are still facing serious threats from motorboats in Florida waterways and should continue be be listed as endangered, according to conservation advocates.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering down-listing manatees, but the move doesn’t make sense, considering that boat collisions are still the leading cause of death, as detailed in a new report issued by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The conservation group charges that federal and state officials have issued permits for thousands of new docks, boat ramps and piers without considering the cumulative effects on the marine mammals who favor the same near-shore waters used by Florida’s recreational boaters. Continue reading

Biodiversity: California blue whales make huge comeback

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Conservation works! Protective measures have helped restore blue whale populations in the eastern Pacific.

‘We think the California population has reached the capacity of what the system can take as far as blue whales’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Marine scientists say the population of California blue whales, living the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean from the equator up into the Gulf of Alaska, has rebounded to about 2,200 individuals, which may be near the historic pre-whaling level.

According to the new study, published the journal Marine Mammal Science, it’s the only population of blue whales known to have recovered from whaling after being nearly hunted to extinction.

“The recovery of California blue whales from whaling demonstrates the ability of blue whale populations to rebuild under careful management and conservation measures,” said Cole Monnahan, a University of Washington doctoral student in quantitative ecology and resource management and lead author of the paper. Continue reading

Environment: Scientists warn about use of seismic airguns in never-ending quest for more fossil fuels

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Seismic airgun testing poses a risk to marine mammals.

Marine mammals at risk off the East Coast

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The fossil fuel industry’s use of seismic airgun testing to search for as-yet untapped offshore oil deposits could prove damaging to ocean species — especially marine mammals that depend on acoustic information.

Unless federal agencies use the best available science to design effective avoidance and mitigation strategies, thousands of dolphins and whales could be affected, including critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, with a dwindling population of only 500 individuals. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Counting whales — from space

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New satellite technology could help biologists getter more accurate estimates of whale populations  NOAA photo.

New method could help with marine mammal conservation planning

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After using satellite images to discover new emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica, scientists with the British Antarctic Survey said they’ve also been able to use similar technology to count whales.

Marine mammals are extremely difficult to count on a large scale and traditional methods, such as counting from platforms or land, can be costly and inefficient, so the new method could lead to breakthroughs in estimating populations of whales and other marine mammals. Continue reading

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