Environment: Scientists say global standards for ocean noise pollution are needed to protect marine life

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

Ocean noise pollution hinders communication among whales, and likely impairs their ability to navigate and feed.

Increase in seismic blasting raises concerns

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say new global regulations on ocean noise pollution are needed to protect marine life.

Governments and industries around the world are expanding the use of high-decibel seismic surveys to explore the ocean bottom for resources, potentially putting whales and other animals at risk.

To reduce the risks, the experts recommended that ocean noise be recognized globally as a pollutant — something the European Union has already done — and managed through a revision to the existing International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. Continue reading

New Arctic oil exploration puts narwhals at risk

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Marine conservation advocates say new seismic airgun blasting in the Arctic Ocean threatens whales and other marine life. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Seismic blasting east of Greenland raises concerns about impacts to marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Arctic Ocean north of Alaska isn’t the only area increasingly at risk from oil and gas exploitation. Oil companies are exploring the seabed off the eastern coast of Greenland, and the seismic blasting is likely harm whales and other marine life.

Oil companies use seismic equipment to map underground oil and gas reserves with airguns that emit 259 decibel blasts, a sound intensity would be perceived by humans as approximately eight times louder than a jet engine taking off. Continue reading

Biodiversity: NOAA research voyage aims to track rare North Pacific right whales

New data from the Gulf of Alaska expedition will help guide ongoing conservation efforts

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North Pacific right whales are among the most endangered marine mammal species. There may be as few as 30 individuals remaining. Photo via NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO —There may only be about 30 North Pacific right whales remaining, but fisheries scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are determined to do all they can to try and save the species.

To start, a team of researchers has set out on a month-long research voyage to track the whales in the Gulf of Alaska, where they sometimes visit. North Pacific right whales may be the  most endangered marine mammal to visit U.S. waters. The species was decimated by historic whaling in the 19th century, as well as illegal whaling by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Continue reading

Scientists to investigate spate of Alaska whale strandings

30 large whales reported dead in past year

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Bears feeding on a fin whale carcass in Larson Bay, Alaska; near Kodiak in June 2015. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal biologists said they’re launching an investigation into the cause of an unusually high number of whale deaths in the western Gulf of Alaska. In the past year, 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula.

As a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has declared a formal unusual mortality event, which triggers a focused, expert investigation. An unusual mortality event is a stranding event that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of a marine mammal population, and demands immediate response. The number of large whale strandings for this region to almost three times the historical average for any comparable timespan. Continue reading

Greenpeace activists help stop illegal gillnet fishing in the race to save vaquitas

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Will we let the vaquita vanish? Photo courtesy NOAA.

More enforcement, support for sustainable fishing practices needed to protect world’s most endangered marine mammal

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Marine mammal conservation advocates with Greenpeace last week said that their patrols in the northern Gulf of California found 10 illegal gillnets, which were removed by Mexico’s environmental authorities.

The patrols by the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza are aimed at protecting vaquitas, the world’s smallest and most critically endangered porpoise species. Based on the latest scientific surveys, there are less than 100 vaquitas remaining. Continue reading

German tour operators halt cruises to Faroe Islands in response to continued whale slaughter

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Bloody whale killing on the beaches of the Faroe Islands, Photo via Sea Shepherd.

Activists say unnecessary whale killing must stop

Staff Report

FRISCO — Two big German tour operators have announced that they are cancelling cruise ship visits to the Faroe Islands in reaction to the country’s annual slaughter of hapless whales.

Wildlife advocacy groups have been stepping up the pressure on the Faroe Islands to try and stop the annual event, called the  grindadráp. Islanders defend the practice as an important cultural tradition, but activists say the killing must stop. This year, more than 250 pilot whales where killed late July in a bloodbath on beaches near  Bøur and Tórshavn. Continue reading

Report: Australia’s humpback whales are thriving

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

FRISCO — While many Australian animal species are being pushed toward extinction, humpback whales off both the country’s east and west coasts are making a strong comeback from the whaling era.

Recent research suggests humpback populations are growing at about 10 percent annually, and that populations have recovered to between 60 and 90 percent of pre-whaling numbers, according to a new study published in the journal Marine Policy. Continue reading

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