Dolphin and Whale News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on dolphins and whales
Two dolphins have been recorded having a conversation for the first time after scientists developed an underwater microphone which could distinguish the animals' different "voices". Researchers have known for decades that the mammals had an advanced form of communication. But scientists have now shown that dolphins alter the volume and frequency of pulsed clicks to form individual "words" which they string together into sentences in much the same way that humans speak. Researchers at the Karadag Nature Reserve, in Feodosia, Ukraine, recorded two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, called Yasha and Yana, talking to each other in a pool. Each dolphin would listen to a sentence of pulses without interruption, before replying. Lead researcher Dr Vyacheslav Ryabov, said: "Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people. "Each pulse represents a phoneme or a word of the dolphin's spoken language. "The analysis of numerous pulses registered in our experiments showed that the dolphins took turns in producing [sentences] and did not interrupt each other, which gives reason to believe that each of the dolphins listened to the other's pulses before producing its own. "This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language. This indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins. Their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language."
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My research team and I were following a school of bottlenose dolphins near shore ... off Los Angeles, California. The dolphins were still feeding in circle near shore, when suddenly, one individual changed direction heading out toward deeper water. A minute later, the rest of the school turned to follow. Seeing them abruptly leave a foraging ground and change direction came as a surprise to the research team. I decided to follow them. The dolphins increased their speed. Somewhere near three miles offshore the dolphin group stopped, forming a sort of ring around a dark object in the water. “Someone’s in the water!” yelled my assistant, standing up and pointing at the seemingly lifeless body of a girl. As the boat neared, she feebly turned her head toward us, half-raising her hand as a weak sign for help. If we didn’t act immediately, the girl would die. We [pulled] the frail and hypothermic body on board. “She is cyanotic,” said one of my researchers, also a lifeguard, after a cursory examination. “She has severe hypothermia. We need to get her warm!” We managed to get some of her wet garments off and wrap her in a blanket. We took turns keeping her warm by huddling with her under the blanket. A couple of hours later, we were all waiting outside the emergency room at the Marina del Rey hospital. The ER doctor came out to talk with us. The girl, it seems, would pull through, and he thanked us for our quick action. He tells us the girl was vacationing in L.A. from Germany and, as the letter found in her plastic bag explained, she was attempting suicide. If we hadn’t found her, if the dolphins hadn’t led us offshore when they did, to that specific place, she would have died.
Note: This article has been adapted from the book Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist. For more on the amazing capacities of dolphins and other marine mammals, as well as the threats they face from human activities, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
They escape from aquarium tanks. They locate underwater mines. Now, a new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science claims that dolphins recognized their own name when called. Vincent Janik, one of the authors of the study and a biology researcher at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said that the name is actually a specific type of dolphin vocalization that the animals respond to. "They're these high pitched whistles that have a little bit of a melody," he told ABC News. These sounds are referred to as "signature whistles." Janik and his colleague, Stephanie King, cruised along the east coast of Scotland looking for bottlenose dolphins. After spotting and identifying a dolphin in the wild, the researchers would play one of three different sounds: a modified sound clip of that dolphin's signature whistle, a signature whistle of one of its podmates, or the signature whistle of a completely foreign dolphin. They played the dolphin's own signature whistle and the animal would come up and approach the boat and whistle back. However, the dolphin didn't respond to the other two types of whistles and mostly kept about its business. It may seem odd that the dolphins don't react much to the whistles of their fellow herdmates, but Janik says that copying a dolphin's signature whistle just right is part of their social group. "This copying only occurs between closely associated animals, like between mothers and their calves," he said. Dolphins only need to respond to their own signature whistles, since any socially relevant animal will have learned how to copy it. "It says to them, 'I know that this [whistle] is a friend.'"
Whales flee from the loud military sonar used by navies to hunt submarines, new research has proven for the first time. The studies provide a missing link in the puzzle that has connected naval exercises around the world to unusual mass strandings of whales and dolphins. Beaked whales, the most common casualty of the strandings, were shown to be highly sensitive to sonar. But the research also revealed unexpectedly that blue whales, the largest animals on Earth and whose population has plummeted by 95% in the last century, also abandoned feeding and swam rapidly away from sonar noise. The strong response observed in the beaked whales occurred at noise levels well below those allowed for US navy exercises. "For whales and dolphins, listening is as important as seeing is for humans – they communicate, locate food, and navigate using sound," said Sarah Dolman, at charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation. "Noise pollution threatens vulnerable populations, driving them away from areas important to their survival, and at worst injuring or even causing the deaths of some whales and dolphins." Dolman said there were no accepted international standards regarding noise pollution and there was an urgent need to re-evaluate the environmental impacts of military activities. Unusual mass strandings, where multiple species of whale and dolphin beach at several locations at once, have soared since the introduction of military sonar in the 1950s and can be fatal. The strandings occur every year and major recent events saw up to 15 animals beached in the Canary Islands, the Bahamas and Greece.
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The ocean depths have become a noisy place. The causes are human: the sonar blasts of military exercises, the booms from air guns used in oil and gas exploration, and the whine from fleets of commercial ships that relentlessly crisscross the global seas. Marine experts say the rising clamor is particularly dangerous to whales, which depend on their acute hearing to locate food and one another. To fight the din, ... the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seeks to document human-made noises in the ocean and transform the results into the world’s first large sound maps. “It’s a first step,” Leila T. Hatch, a marine biologist and one of the project’s two directors, said of the sound maps. “No one’s ever done it on this scale.” Michael Jasny, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, [which] has sued the Navy to reduce sounds that can harm marine mammals, praised the maps as “magnificent” and their depictions of sound pollution as “incredibly disturbing.” Legal experts say the new findings are likely to accelerate efforts both domestically and internationally to deal with the complicated problem through laws, regulations, treaties and voluntary noise reductions. The Navy estimates that blasts from its sonars — used in training and to hunt enemy submarines — result in permanent hearing losses for hundreds of sea mammals every year and temporary losses for thousands. All told, annually the injured animals number more than a quarter million.
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Environmental groups sued the Obama administration ... for granting the Navy permits to test underwater sonar along the West Coast -- and potentially harass up to 650,000 porpoises, seals, dolphins and whales over a five-year period. The alliance said it wasn't seeking to stop the testing but to scale it back, especially at certain times and in waters important for feeding and giving birth. Several studies have found that marine mammals can hear low-frequency sonar, which is magnified under water, and periodically dolphins and even whales have been found with perforated ear drums. The National Marine Fisheries Service "fell down on the job and failed to require the Navy to take reasonable and effective actions to protect" marine mammals, Steve Mashuda, an attorney for the law firm Earthjustice, said. The lawsuit ... claims that the Navy's sonar use might be strong enough to kill the animals outright. But even if it doesn't, it claims, the repeated use of sonar in certain critical habitats is unwarranted. In 2010, the fisheries service approved the Navy's five-year plan for operations in the Northwest Training Range Complex, an area roughly the size of California that stretches from Washington state to Northern California. Under the five-year plan, the service said it was acceptable for the Navy to incur up to 650,000 cases of harassment of marine mammals.
Note: Sonar can drive drive marine mammals insane with the intensity of noise. Imagine a huge siren right next to your ears. You would certainly flee to try to get away. This is likely what is causing many of the whale and dolphin strandings. How much sound does it take to perforate an ear drum, as is mentioned in this article? For more on threats to marine mammals, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
During a normal summer, Glacier Bay and the surrounding area buzzes with traffic, as vessels of all sizes, from massive, 150,000-tonne cruise liners to smaller whale-watching boats, ply the waters as part of Southern Alaska's massive tourism industry. The Covid-19 pandemic brought all of that to a sudden halt. Overall marine traffic in Glacier Bay declined roughly 40%. According to research by [Christine] Gabriele and Cornell University researcher Michelle Fournet, the level of manmade sound in Glacier Bay last year dropped sharply from 2018 levels, particularly at the lower frequencies generated by the massive cruise ship engines. Peak sound levels were down nearly half. All this afforded researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study whale behaviour in the kind of quiet environment that hasn't existed in the area for more than century. Gabriele has already noted changes. She compared whale activity in pre-pandemic times to human behaviour in a crowded bar. They talk louder, they stay closer together, and they keep the conversation simple. Now, the humpbacks seem to be spreading out across larger swathes of the bay. Whales can hear each other over about 2.3km (1.4 miles), compared with pre-pandemic distances closer to 200m (650ft). That has allowed mothers to leave their calves to play while they swim out to feed. Some have been observed taking naps. And whale songs - the ghostly whoops and pops by which the creatures communicate - have become more varied.
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In the depths of the ocean, and out of sight for most of us, there's a quiet miracle happening. Many humpback whale populations, previously devastated by commercial whaling, are making a comeback. A recent study on humpbacks that breed off the coast of Brazil and call Antarctic waters home during the summer has shown that these whales can now be found in the sort of numbers seen before the days of whaling. Records suggest that in the 1830s there were around 27,000 whales but, after heavy hunting, by the mid-1950s only 450 remained. It is reassuring to see what happens when we leave nature to follow its course. The ban of commercial whaling in 1986 led to a strong recovery and now this population is thought to be around 93% of its original size. By taking away the threat of hunting, and having safe spaces to survive and thrive, humpback numbers in many areas have recovered. This is great news for the whales, of course, but also for the climate. Keeping carbon out of the atmosphere is key to tackling the climate crisis and the contribution that a single whale can make is something we need to take seriously. On average a single whale stores around 33 tonnes of CO2. If we consider only the Antarctic humpback whales that breed in Brazil, protecting this population alone has resulted in 813,780 tonnes of CO2 being stored in the deep sea. That's around twice the yearly CO2 emissions of a small country like Bermuda or Belize, according to 2018 emissions data.
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the U.S. Navy was wrongly allowed to use sonar that could harm whales and other marine life. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision upholding approval granted in 2012 for the Navy to use low-frequency sonar for training, testing and routine operations. The five-year approval covered peacetime operations in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Sonar, used to detect submarines, can injure whales, seals, dolphins and walruses and disrupt their feeding and mating. The 2012 rules adopted by the National Marine Fisheries Service permitted Navy sonar use to affect about 30 whales and two dozen pinnipeds, marine mammals with front and rear flippers such as seals and sea lions, each year. The Navy was required to shut down or delay sonar use if a marine mammal was detected near the ship. Loud sonar pulses also were banned near coastlines and in certain protected waters. Environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a lawsuit in San Francisco in 2012, arguing that the approval violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The appellate court ruled 3-0 that the approval rules failed to meet a section of the protection act requiring peacetime oceanic programs to have "the least practicable adverse impact on marine mammals." The panel concluded that the fisheries service "did not give adequate protection to ... the world's oceans."
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Conservationists counted 615 dead dolphins along a 90-mile stretch of beaches in Peru ... and the leading suspect is acoustic testing offshore by oil companies. "If you can count 615 dead dolphins, you can be sure there are a great many more out at sea and the total will reach into the thousands,” Hardy Jones, head of the conservation group BlueVoice.org, said in a statement after he and an expert with ORCA Peru walked the beaches. BlueVoice.org stated that "initial tests ... show evidence of acoustical impact from sonic blasts used in exploration for oil." The ORCA Peru expert, veterinarian Carlos Yaipen Llanos, said that while "we have no definitive evidence," he suspects acoustic testing created ... a sonic blast that led to internal bleeding, loss of equilibrium and disorientation. Another possibility is that the dolphins suffered from a disease outbreak, Yaipen Llanos said. "It is a horrifying thought that these dolphins would die in agony over a prolonged period if they were impacted by sonic blast," said Jones. Numerous dolphins first started washing ashore in January, with the largest amount coming in early February. Thousands of dead anchovies were also seen. BlueVoice.org noted that the U.S. has suspended similar testing in the Gulf of Mexico due to recent sightings of dead and sick dolphins. The ban was set to last through the dolphins' calving season, which ends in May.
Note: A San Francisco Chronicle article on this a few days later states, "All of the 20 or so animals ... examined showed middle-ear hemorrhage and fracture of the ear's periotic bone. ... Most of the dolphins apparently were alive when they beached." Clearly sonic blasts of some sort are driving these intelligent animals to beach themselves and commit suicide. For clear evidence this is the result of oil exploration, click here. For many other excellent media articles on whales on dolphins, click here.
Scientists have now documented behaviors like tool use and cooperative hunting strategies among whales. Orcas, or killer whales, have been found to mourn their own dead. Just three years ago, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York discovered, in the brains of a number of whale species, highly specialized neurons that are linked to, among other things, the use of language and were once thought to be the exclusive property of humans and a few other primates. Indeed, marine biologists are now revealing not only the dizzying variety of vocalizations among a number of whale species but also complex societal structures and cultures. Whales, we now know, teach and learn. They scheme. They cooperate, and they grieve. They recognize themselves and their friends. They know and fight back against their enemies. And perhaps most stunningly, given all of our transgressions against them, they may even, in certain circumstances, have learned to trust us. For all of their inherent elusiveness, the gray whales of Baja baffle scientists for the opposite reason: They can’t seem to get enough of us humans. The question of why present-day gray-whale mothers, some of whom still bear harpoon scars, would take to seeking us out and gently shepherding their young into our arms is a mystery that now captivates whale researchers and watchers alike. There may be something far more compelling going on in the lagoons of Baja each winter and spring. Something, let’s say, along the lines of that time-worn plot conceit behind many a film, in which the peaceable greetings of alien visitors are tragically rebuffed by human fear and ignorance. Except that in this particular rendition, the aliens keep coming back, trying, perhaps, to give us another chance.
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The US navy set off a massive explosion last week, detonating a 40,000lb blast as part of a test to determine whether its newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, is ready for war. The test, known as a full ship shock trial, is just the first of three planned blasts over the coming months. But the amount of explosive used – 40,000 lbs – is enough to have outsized effects on any marine life in the area, said Michael Jasny, who directs the Natural Resources Defense Council's Marine Mammal Protection Project. "The navy's own modeling indicates that some smaller species of marine mammals would be expected to die within 1-2km of the blast, and that some marine mammal species would suffer injury including hearing loss out to 10km of the blast. That gives some sense of the power of the explosives we are talking about," Jasny said. "We don't know how conscientiously the blast site was chosen, and we don't know how effective the monitoring was before the detonation, so it's hard to put a great deal of faith in the safety of marine life." The area is home to populations of dolphin and small whales at this time of year, and Jasny says that's worrisome because as a general rule, smaller animals are more vulnerable to blast injury. "A large whale might need to be within a few hundred meters of the blast to die, while a small mammal could be a couple of kilometers away," he said, adding that even if the animals survive, loss of hearing is a significant problem for mammals who make their living in the ocean.
Scientists say they have seen a remarkable collection of blue whales in the coastal waters around the UK sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. Their 23-day survey counted 55 animals - a total that is unprecedented in the decades since commercial whaling ended. To witness 55 of them now return to what was once a pre-eminent feeding ground for the population has been described as "truly, truly amazing" by cetacean specialist Dr Trevor Branch. "To think that in a period of 40 or 50 years, I only had records for two sightings of blue whales around South Georgia. So to go from basically nothing to 55 in one year is astonishing," he told BBC News. Blue whales are the most massive creatures ever to roam the Earth, and the Antarctic sub-species contained the very biggest of the big at over 30m. This population was also the most numerous of the 10 or so discrete populations across the globe, carrying perhaps 239,000 individuals prior to the onset of industrial exploitation. But the marine mammals' physical size made them a profitable catch, and around South Georgia more than 33,000 Antarctic blues were documented to have been caught and butchered, most of them between 1904 and 1925. By the time a ban was introduced in 1966, a sighting anywhere in Southern Ocean waters would have been extremely rare indeed. The last official estimate of abundance was made in 1997 and suggested Antarctic blues could have recovered to about 2,280 individuals.
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In the depths of the ocean, and out of sight for most of us, there’s a quiet miracle happening. Many humpback whale populations, previously devastated by commercial whaling, are making a comeback. A recent study on humpbacks that breed off the coast of Brazil and call Antarctic waters home during the summer has shown that these whales can now be found in the sort of numbers seen before the days of whaling. In the 1830s there were around 27,000 whales but, after heavy hunting, by the mid-1950s only 450 remained. It is reassuring to see what happens when we leave nature to follow its course. The ban of commercial whaling in 1986 led to a strong recovery and now this population is thought to be around 93% of its original size. By taking away the threat of hunting, and having safe spaces to survive and thrive, humpback numbers in many areas have recovered. This is great news for the whales, of course, but also for the climate. Keeping carbon out of the atmosphere is key to tackling the climate crisis and the contribution that a single whale can make is something we need to take seriously. A single whale stores around 33 tonnes of CO2. If we consider only the Antarctic humpback whales that breed in Brazil, protecting this population alone has resulted in 813,780 tonnes of CO2 being stored in the deep sea. That’s around twice the yearly CO2 emissions of a small country. When a whale dies naturally, it exports carbon stored in its gigantic body to the deep sea, keeping it locked up for centuries.
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[Humpbacks whales] deliberately interfere with attacking killer whales to help others in distress. They don’t just defend their own babies or close relatives. They intervene on behalf of other species - a gray whale calf with its mother, a seal hauled out on an ice floe, even an ocean sunfish. Humpbacks act to improve the welfare of others; the classic definition of altruism. Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist ... describes a pivotal encounter he witnessed in Antarctica in 2009. A group of killer whales washed a Weddell seal they were attacking off an ice floe. A pair of humpbacks ... inserted themselves into the action. One of the huge humpbacks rolled over on its back and the 180-kilogram seal was swept up onto its chest between the whale’s massive flippers. And when the seal started slipping off, the humpback, according to Pitman, “gave the seal a gentle nudge with its flipper, back to the middle of its chest. Moments later, the seal scrambled off and swam to the safety of a nearby ice floe.” Pitman started asking people to send him similar accounts. Soon he was poring through observations of 115 encounters between humpbacks and killer whales, recorded over 62 years. So are humpbacks compassionate? When I pose the ... question to Pitman he [responds], “When a human protects an imperiled individual of another species, we call it compassion. If a humpback whale does so, we call it instinct. But sometimes the distinction isn’t all that clear.”
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One of the stories that inspired bestselling author Susan Casey’s new book on the intricate world of dolphins, Voices in the Ocean, is almost too beautiful to be believed. A biologist named Maddalena Bearzi was studying a group of dolphins off the coast of Los Angeles when she noticed something strange. The “pod” (group of dolphins) had just landed upon a herd of sardines. They were about to start feeding when one, unexpectedly, darted off. The rest followed, swimming full speed out to sea. When she reached them, three miles offshore, the pod had a formed a circle - in the middle of it, a girl’s floating body. Very near death, the girl had a plastic bag with her identification and a suicide note wrapped around her neck. With the dolphins' help, she was saved. The first dolphins lived on land. It took them 25 million years to adapt to being in the water. Their bodies shrank and their teeth shrank and their brains got big. They did all kinds of shape-shifting evolutionarily. Their brains grew significantly. It’s fascinating because scientists don’t know why. Most scientists’ main guess is that it was due to their changing social behavior. How did the dolphin know the girl was there? That’s the big question. They don’t rely on vision. I suspect it had something to do with frequency and vibration but of course that’s a guess. We don’t know. They tend to treat us the way they would treat other dolphins. By themselves, they’re vulnerable - to sharks, getting lost, all these things. So when you see dolphins together there is constant touching. They know how to help each other.
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Environmental organizations filed a lawsuit [on December 16] against the National Marine Fisheries Service to demand it force the Navy to consider alternatives to its five-year plan that will intensify its sonar use off Southern California and Hawaii. Earthjustice, representing several groups, filed the lawsuit ... only hours after the federal agency announced it had decided to grant the Navy permits to move ahead with its plans for training and testing in the Pacific. Environmentalists [favor] creating zones that would be off-limits to biologically sensitive areas [and] want the Navy to avoid training in certain spots seasonally when they are rich in marine life. "The science is clear: sonar and live-fire training in the ocean harms marine mammals," said Marsha Green of Ocean Mammal Institute. "There are safer ways to conduct Navy exercises that include time and place restrictions to avoid areas known to be vital for marine mammals' feeding, breeding and resting." Reported mass strandings of beaked whales have increased around the world since the military started using sonar more than half a century ago. The sounds can scare animals into shallow waters where they can become disoriented and wash ashore. Aside from beachings, biologists are concerned about prolonged stress from changes in diving, feeding and communication habits. Two recent studies off the Southern California coast found certain endangered blue whales and beaked whales stopped feeding and fled from recordings of noise similar to military sonar. Beaked whales are highly sensitive to sound and account for the majority of strandings near military exercises.
Note: Consider that naval sonar doesn't "scare" marine mammals, but rather drives them insane with the intensity of noise. Imagine a huge siren right next to your ears. You would certainly flee to try to get away. This is likely what is causing many of the whale and dolphin strandings. Studies have found stranded animals to have perforated ear drums, as you can read in this NBC News article. How much sound does it take to perforate an ear drum? For more on threats to marine mammals, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
In issuing a deliberately narrow ruling yesterday in a controversial case involving whales and the U.S. Navy, the Supreme Court strongly indicated that it intends to defer to the military in future disputes pitting national security against environmental concerns. The justices voted 6 to 3 to lift restrictions on the Navy's use of sonar off the Southern California coast, backing the military in a longstanding battle over whether anti-submarine training harms marine mammals. Environmentalists say the exercises disrupt habitats and leave the mammals with permanent hearing loss and decompression sickness. But the Navy argued that the training missions are essential to detecting a new generation of "quiet" submarines deployed by China, North Korea and other potential adversaries. "We do not discount the importance of plaintiffs' ecological, scientific, and recreational interests in marine mammals," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the first decision of the court's current term. "Those interests, however, are plainly outweighed by the Navy's need to conduct realistic training exercises to ensure that it is able to neutralize the threat posed by enemy submarines." Although the majority tailored its decision on narrow legal grounds and indicated that future environmental disputes will be decided on a case-by-case basis, the court made sweeping statements of deference to military judgments. Roberts unquestioningly accepted the assertion of top Navy officers that the exercises "are of utmost importance to the Navy and the Nation," writing that "the proper determination of where the public interest lies does not strike us as a close question."
A humpback whale freed by divers from a tangle of crab trap lines near the Farallon Islands nudged its rescuers and flapped around in what marine experts said was a rare and remarkable encounter. "It felt to me like it was thanking us, knowing that it was free and that we had helped it," James Moskito, one of the rescue divers, said Tuesday. "It stopped about a foot away from me, pushed me around a little bit and had some fun." Sunday's daring rescue was the first successful attempt on the West Coast to free an entangled humpback. It was a very risky maneuver...because the mere flip of a humpback's massive tail can kill a man. "I was the first diver in the water, and my heart sank when I saw all the lines wrapped around it," said [James] Moskito. "I really didn't think we were going to be able to save it." Moskito said about 20 crab-pot ropes, which are 240 feet long with weights every 60 feet, were wrapped around the animal. Rope was wrapped at least four times around the tail, the back and the left front flipper, and there was a line in the whale's mouth. Moskito and three other divers spent about an hour cutting the ropes with a special curved knife. The whale floated passively in the water the whole time, he said, giving off a strange kind of vibration. "When I was cutting the line going through the mouth, its eye was there winking at me, watching me," Moskito said. "It was an epic moment of my life." When the whale realized it was free, it began swimming around in circles, according to the rescuers. Moskito said it swam to each diver, nuzzled him and then swam to the next one.
For Alaskans, summertime means cruise ships. Lots of cruise ships. The 2020 season was expected to commence with a record-breaking deluge of 1.4 million tourists and glacier gazers that would effectively triple the state's scant population of 730,000. Once the pandemic hit, that number effectively dropped to zero. Although the economy is being decimated by the reduction in tourist vessels, the state's humpback whales are some of the few locals actually enjoying the silence. Dr Michelle Fournet, director of the Sound Science Research Collective and research fellow at Cornell University, has been listening in on whale conversations for 10 years, but never before has she seen a summer like this. "The last time researchers were able to listen to humpbacks in a quiet ocean in Alaska was in 1976," when commercial whale watching began, said Fournet, and their population was much lower as humpback whaling was banned only a decade earlier. Since that time, recording technology has come a long way and whale populations have seen a huge resurgence, with several thousand summering in south-east Alaska alone. Fournet was ecstatic after listening to her first hydrophone recordings of the year two weeks ago. "It's really, really quiet. [On] my very first pass of listening, I randomly picked a file, and I immediately heard a whale instead of a boat." The state may be facing a big economic downturn, but this is at least one fact to take comfort in, she said. "Even though we are not on the ocean right now, the whales are still there," said Fournet.
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A dolphin species considered regionally extinct in the Adriatic has been spotted there repeatedly off the Italian and Slovenian coast. Researchers from Morigenos Slovenian Marine Mammal Society and the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews have published a new review study on the occurrence of common dolphins in the Gulf of Trieste and the northern Adriatic Sea, published in the scientific journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. The dolphin (Delphinus delphis) used to be very common in the Adriatic Sea and other parts of the Mediterranean Sea. However, since the 1970s it has become so rare that the Mediterranean population is now listed as Endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). During the last 30 years, this species has been considered as regionally extinct from the Adriatic Sea, likely due to intentional and systematic killing during mid-20th century. Back then, both Italy and the former Yugoslavia used to pay monetary rewards for every dolphin killed because dolphins were considered a pest that competed with fisheries. Due to their rarity, all records of common dolphins in the Adriatic and many other Mediterranean areas are important. Despite no previous records, four different animals were observed in the area over a period of four years. Some of these individual dolphins were seen repeatedly, one over the course of two months and one over the course of more than a year.
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New research reveals that orcas are able to imitate human speech, in some cases at the first attempt, saying words such as “hello”, “one, two” and “bye bye”. The creatures are already known for their ability to copy the movements of other orcas, with some reports suggesting they can also mimic the sounds of bottlenose dolphins and sea lions. “We wanted to see how flexible a killer whale can be in copying sounds,” said [study co-author] Josep Call. “We thought what would be really convincing is to present them with something that is not in their repertoire – and in this case ‘hello’ [is] not what a killer whale would say.” Only a fraction of the animal kingdom can mimic human speech, with brain pathways and vocal apparatus both thought to determine whether it is possible. “That is what makes it even more impressive – even though the morphology [of orcas] is so different, they can still produce a sound that comes close to what another species, in this case us, can produce,” said Call. Wikie, a 14-year-old female orca ... had previously been trained to copy actions performed by another orca when given a human gesture. After first brushing up Wikie’s grasp of the “copy” command, she was ... exposed to five orca sounds she had never heard before. Finally, Wikie was exposed to a human making three of the orca sounds, as well as six human sounds. Wikie was often quickly able to copy the sounds, whether from an orca or a human, with all of the novel noises mimicked within 17 trials.
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Late last year, fishermen began finding dead dolphins, hundreds of them, washed up on Peru’s northern coast. Now, seabirds have begun dying, too, and the government has yet to conclusively pinpoint a cause. Officials insist that the two die-offs are unrelated. The dolphins are succumbing to a virus, they suggest, and the seabirds are dying of starvation because anchovies are in short supply. There is growing suspicion among the public and scientists that there might be more to the story. Some argue that offshore oil exploration could be disturbing wildlife, for example, and others fear that biotoxins or pesticides might be working their way up the food chain. At least 877 dolphins and more than 1,500 birds, most of them brown pelicans and boobies, have died since the government began tracking the deaths in February, the Environment Ministry said last week. The dolphins, many of which appeared to have decomposed in the ocean before washing ashore, were found in the Piura and Lambayeque regions, not far from the border with Ecuador. The seabirds, which seem mostly to have died onshore, have been found from Lambayeque to Lima. In offshore seismic testing, ships tow arrays of air guns that release high-pressure air under water, producing sound waves that can be analyzed to locate oil and gas deposits deep under the ocean floor.
Note: A San Francisco Chronicle article on this states, "All of the 20 or so animals ... examined showed middle-ear hemorrhage and fracture of the ear's periotic bone. ... Most of the dolphins apparently were alive when they beached." Clearly sonic blasts of some sort are driving these intelligent animals to beach themselves and commit suicide. For clear evidence that this is the result of oil exploration, click here. For lots more from major media sources on the threats to marine mammals from human activities, click here. And for more on the mysterious mass animal deaths occurring worldwide, click here.
A new study of dolphins living close to the site of North America's worst ever oil spill – the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe two years ago – has established serious health problems afflicting the marine mammals. The report, commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], found that many of the 32 dolphins studied were underweight, anaemic and suffering from lung and liver disease. More than 200m gallons of crude oil flowed from the well after a series of explosions on 20 April 2010, which killed 11 workers. The spill contaminated the Gulf of Mexico and its coastline in what President Barack Obama called America's worst environmental disaster. The research follows the publication of several scientific studies into insect populations on the nearby Gulf coastline and into the health of deepwater coral populations, which all suggest that the environmental impact of the five-month long spill may have been far worse than previously appreciated. The study of the dolphins ... followed two years in which the number of dead dolphins found stranded on the coast close to the spill had dramatically increased. Although all but one of the 32 dolphins were still alive when the study ended, lead researcher Lori Schwacke said survival prospects for many were grim. A study of deep ocean corals seven miles from the spill source jointly funded by the NOAA and BP has found dead and dying corals coated "in brown gunk". Chemical analysis of oil found on the dying coral showed that it came from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
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Dolphins have been declared the world's second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as "non-human persons". Studies into dolphin behaviour have highlighted how similar their communications are to those of humans and that they are brighter than chimpanzees. These have been backed up by anatomical research showing that dolphin brains have many key features associated with high intelligence. The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in this way each year. "Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size," said Lori Marino, a zoologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who has used magnetic resonance imaging scans to map the brains of dolphin species and compare them with those of primates. Thomas White, professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, who has written a series of academic studies suggesting dolphins should have rights, [said], "The scientific research ... suggests that dolphins are 'non-human persons' who qualify for moral standing as individuals."
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The songs that whales and dolphins use to communicate, orient themselves and find mates are being drowned out by human-made noises in the world's oceans. That sound pollution -- everything from increasing commercial shipping and seismic surveys to a new generation of military sonar -- is not only confounding the mammals, it also is further threatening the survival of these endangered animals. Studies show that these cetaceans, which once communicated over thousands of miles to forage and mate, are losing touch with each other, ... experts said at a U.N. wildlife conference in Rome. "Call it a cocktail-party effect," said Mark Simmonds, director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, a Britain-based NGO. "You have to speak louder and louder until no one can hear each other anymore." Environmental groups also are increasingly finding cases of beached whales and dolphins that can be linked to sound pollution, Simmonds said. Marine mammals are turning up on the world's beaches with tissue damage similar to that found in divers suffering from decompression sickness. Scientists say the use of military sonar or seismic testing may have scared the animals into diving and surfacing beyond their physical limits. Several species of cetaceans are already listed as endangered or critically endangered from other causes, including hunting, chemical pollution, collisions with boats and entanglements with fishing equipment. Though it is not yet known precisely how many animals are affected, sound pollution is increasingly being recognized as a serious factor, the experts said.
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Anti-submarine sonar may have killed a group of whales found dead in the Hebrides in one of Britain's most unusual strandings, scientists believe. Five Cuvier's beaked whales, a species rarely seen in British waters, were discovered on beaches in the Western Isles on succeeding days in February. Another animal from a related species was discovered at the same time. Experts consider such a multiple stranding to be highly abnormal. The main suspect in the case is sonar, as it is known that beaked whales are highly sensitive to the powerful sound waves used by all the world's navies to locate underwater objects such as submarines. Groups of beaked whales have been killed, with sonar suspected as the direct cause, several times in recent years; well-documented incidents include anti-submarine exercises in Greece in 1996, the Bahamas in 2000 and the Canary Islands in 2002. Britain's Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society has now submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Defence over the Hebridean strandings. The 21 species of beaked whale include some of the world's most rarely seen mammals; they are also the deepest-diving air-breathing animals. A Cuvier's beaked whale set the record for a deep dive two years ago: 1,899 metres, or 6,230ft, beneath the surface, holding its breath for an astonishing 85 minutes. The animals use these deep dives to forage, but when sonar gets involved, their remarkable habit may be their undoing. One theory is that the whales are so distressed by the intensely loud sound waves that they return too quickly to the surface, and in doing so, fatally suffer "the bends" – the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood which can kill human divers.
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The Navy is refusing to detail its sonar use for a federal court in a case involving potential harm to whales, saying the information could jeopardize national security. The Natural Resources Defense Council is suing the Navy to ensure sailors use sonar in a way that doesn't harm whales and other marine mammals. Critics say active sonar, which sailors use by pumping sound through water and listening for objects the sound bounces off of, can strand and even kill marine mammals. A U.S. Congressional Research Service report last year found Navy sonar exercises had been responsible for at least six mass deaths and unusual behavior among whales. Many of the beached or dead animals had damaged hearing organs. In considering the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper issued an order for the Navy to submit data for the case on when and where sailors have used sonar since 2003. The Navy said in its new release that it refused to comply citing state secrets privilege. Joel Reynolds, a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney, said he would challenge the Navy's position. "This latest invocation of state secret privilege is one more attempt to deprive the public of the information it needs to determine whether the Navy is illegally and needlessly endangering the marine environment," Reynolds said.
Note: What this and almost all other media articles on this subject fail to mention is that traditional radar used used since before WWII does not harm whales and dolphins. It is only sophisticated new systems that are causing mass deaths of these intelligent mammals around the world.
The discovery of a newborn blue whale on West Australia's south coast is a "game changer", according to scientists studying the ocean giants, who say the species has no known breeding grounds in Australian waters. The juvenile was spotted with its mother just a few hundred metres off the coast near Bremer Bay, about 500 kilometres south-east of Perth, at the weekend. It may be the first blue whale born in Australian waters. Marine biologist Brodee Elsdon said the subspecies pygmy blue whales were often spotted migrating along the west coast, but rarely during this time of year, so close to shore or with a recently born calf. Pia Markovich, who was on board the vessel which spotted the pair, said the calf appeared to be very young. "Seeing a blue whale is one thing, but to have a mother and calf [is] next level," she said. "And for the calf to be so small, well that's like winning the wildlife lotto. "At first glance, puzzled passengers looked to the crew to understand the significance of this encounter. "Our faces would have said it all, jaws dropped and minds blown." Ms Elsdon said the sighting could help develop scientists' understanding of blue whale migration and breeding. There are no known breeding grounds for these giants in Australian waters. "We predict the breeding grounds for pygmy blue whale are all the way in Indonesia waters, so to have one born this early and in the Southern Ocean, changes everything we know," she said.
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The Trump administration is preparing to take an important step toward future oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic shore, approving five requests from companies to conduct deafening seismic tests that could harm tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and other marine animals. The ... announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the Commerce Department, to issue "incidental take" permits allowing companies to harm wildlife is likely to further antagonize a dozen governors in states on the Eastern Seaboard who strongly oppose the administration's proposal to expand federal oil and gas leases to the Atlantic. Federal leases could lead to exploratory drilling for the first time in more than half a century. In addition to harming sea life, acoustic tests — in which boats tugging rods pressurized for sound emit jet-engine-like booms 10 to 12 seconds apart for days and sometimes months — can disrupt thriving commercial fisheries. Seismic testing maps the ocean floor and estimates the whereabouts of oil and gas, but only exploratory drilling can confirm their presence. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill that soiled the Gulf of Mexico resulted from an exploratory drill. Nearly 2.5 million dolphins would be harassed or possibly killed by acoustic sound blasts each year in the ... Atlantic, and nearly half a million pilot whales would be impacted. The Obama administration denied six permits for seismic testing weeks before Trump took office ... out of concern for wildlife and fisheries.
Japanese fishermen drove a large group of dolphins into the shallows ... and, hiding from reporters and TV cameras behind a tarpaulin, killed at least 30 as the annual dolphin hunt that sparked protest in the West entered its final stages. Both the U.S. and British ambassadors to Japan have strongly criticized the "drive killings" of dolphins citing the "terrible suffering" inflicted on the marine mammals. Every year the fishermen of Taiji, in western Wakayama prefecture, drive hundreds of dolphins into a cove, select some for sale to marine parks, release some and kill the rest for meat. On Tuesday, at least 30 dolphins out of the group of more than 200 held in the cove since Friday were herded by boat engines and nets into a killing area of the Taiji cove. Before the killing began, fishermen pulled a tarpaulin in front of the cove to prevent activists and reporters from seeing the killing. A large pool of blood seeped under the tarpaulin and spread across the cove. "A metal rod was stabbed into their spinal cord, where they were left to bleed out, suffocate and die. After a traumatic four days held captive in the killing cove, they experienced violent captive selection, being separated from their family, and then eventually were killed today," Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activist Melissa Sehgal told Reuters. The annual hunt has long been a source of controversy and was the topic of "The Cove", an Oscar-winning documentary that brought Taiji into the international spotlight.
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Federal wildlife officials raised a formal alarm on [August 8] over the deaths of scores of bottlenose dolphins in waters off the east coast, saying that a fast-spreading infection could be attacking dolphin populations from New York to Virginia. At least 124 of the mammals have washed onto beaches since July, all of them dead or dying, a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service said. The agency, which is responsible for monitoring and protecting marine mammals, declared the deaths to be an “unusual mortality event,” opening the way for federal help in finding the cause. In July alone, 89 dolphins were beached, seven times the usual number. Tests on one dolphin carcass have uncovered possible signs of morbillivirus, an infection similar to canine distemper that ravaged East Coast dolphins over a 10-month span in 1987 and 1988. More than 700 dolphins were stranded from New Jersey to Florida during that outbreak, one of the worst on record. But news reports state that other dolphins stranded this summer had pneumonia, and officials said that it could take weeks to pin down the precise cause, if one is found. Unusual mortality events are declared when a marine mammal die-off is judged unexpected, large and in need of immediate attention. Investigators have failed to find a cause of death in roughly half the 60 mortality events declared since the first one in 1991. There are undoubtedly more dead or sick animals at sea that have gone undetected, officials said. The bulk of the deaths, at least 64, have occurred off the coast of Virginia. At least 18 strandings have been recorded in New York waters and 26 off New Jersey.
Note: For additional details about the mysterious deaths of dolphins, manatees and pelicans on the East Coast, click here. For more on mysterious mass deaths of animals, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The Navy plans to increase ocean warfare exercises, conduct more sonar tests and expand coastal training areas by hundreds of square miles — activities that could harass, injure or disturb the habitats of hundreds of thousands of marine mammals, federal records show. The Navy is seeking federal permits to broaden an existing range off the Pacific Northwest and dramatically expand exercises and sonar use in the Gulf of Alaska. The Navy's plans have ignited a debate with environmental groups that say the service underestimates the long-term impact of its activities and fails to restrict training sufficiently in marine sanctuaries and other areas where it is likely to affect sensitive species. The plans to expand training off the Pacific Northwest, where the service's exercise areas reach into the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, have drawn about 3,500 public comments, most in opposition. Critics of the Navy's plans point to its use of new sonar systems that can disrupt marine mammals' brain function and behavior, noting that even brief disorientation or other "temporary" effects can have serious consequences, such as changes in reproductive activity. Among the most serious concerns is the potential for whales to strand themselves on beaches: Since 2000, there have been at least four instances in which mass strandings of whales have been associated with the Navy's sonar use, federal records show.
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A Sunday Times investigation has exposed Japan for bribing small nations with cash and prostitutes to gain their support for the mass slaughter of whales. The undercover investigation found officials from six countries were willing to consider selling their votes on the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The revelations come as Japan seeks to break the 24-year moratorium on commercial whaling. An IWC meeting that will decide the fate of thousands of whales, including endangered species, begins this month in Morocco. Japan denies buying the votes of IWC members. However, The Sunday Times filmed officials from pro-whaling governments admitting: - They voted with the whalers because of the large amounts of aid from Japan. One said he was not sure if his country had any whales in its territorial waters. Others are landlocked. – They receive cash payments in envelopes at IWC meetings from Japanese officials who pay their travel and hotel bills. - One disclosed that call girls were offered when fisheries ministers and civil servants visited Japan for meetings. Barry Gardiner, an MP and former Labour biodiversity minister, said the investigation revealed "disgraceful, shady practice", which is "effectively buying votes".
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The United States is facing increasing international pressure to place limitations on the use of military sonar ... that has been linked to mass strandings of whales. The European Union Parliament -- the most prominent of four international bodies that have taken up the matter in recent months -- called in October for its member states to develop a moratorium on all types of military sonars, which use powerful sound to locate objects such as submarines. According to studies cited by the EU and the other world bodies, noise can interfere with the survival of the ocean creatures that depend on sound to navigate, find food, locate mates, avoid predators and communicate with one another. At high decibel levels, noise can kill. The U.S. Navy is the biggest user of midfrequency active sonar in the world -- and government officials have been loath to require permits to regulate its use. In more than a dozen instances dating back to the 1960s, however, whales have stranded themselves on the beaches and sometimes died at the time of naval training exercises miles away using midfrequency active sonar. An unprecedented stranding of 16 beaked and minke whales in the Bahamas in 2000 brought worldwide attention to military sonar. A NOAA investigation concluded that a Navy testing maneuver using midfrequency sonar -- by far the most commonly used type of sonar -- was the likely cause. Necropsies found signs of brain hemorrhaging, which is consistent with injury from sound.
Navy training and testing could inadvertently kill hundreds of whales and dolphins and injure thousands over the next five years, mostly as a result of detonating explosives underwater, according to two environmental impact statements released by the military [on August 30]. The Navy said that the studies focused on waters off the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Southern California and Hawaii from 2014 through 2019, the main areas that the service branch tests equipment and trains sailors. Most of the deaths would come from explosives, though some might come from testing sonar or animals being hit by ships. According to the reports, computer models show it may kill 186 whales and dolphins off the East Coast and 155 off Hawaii and Southern California. But Michael Jasny, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Navy was underestimating the effect its activities on marine mammals. For example, he pointed to a study by government and private sector scientists published just last month in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society showing mid-frequency active sonar can disrupt blue whale feeding. The study says feeding disruptions and the movement of whales away from their prey could significantly affect the health of individual whales and the overall health of baleen whale populations. Jasny said the Navy's ocean activities are "simply not sustainable." "These smaller disruptions short of death are themselves accumulating into something like death for species and death for populations," Jasny said.
Note: For more on the impacts of Navy operations on marine mammals, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
White House officials for more than a year have blocked a rule aimed at protecting endangered North Atlantic right whales by challenging the findings of government scientists, according to documents obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The documents, which were mailed to the environmental group by an unidentified National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official, illuminate a struggle that has raged between the White House and NOAA for more than a year. In February 2007, NOAA issued a final rule aimed at slowing ships traversing some East Coast waters to 10 knots or less during parts of the year to protect the right whales, but the White House has blocked the rule from taking effect. North Atlantic right whales, whose surviving population numbers fewer than 400, are one of the most endangered species on Earth, and scientists have warned that the loss of just one more pregnant female could doom the species. Some shipping companies have opposed the NOAA proposal, saying slowing their vessels will cost the industry money. The documents, which House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) released yesterday, show that the White House Council of Economic Advisers and Vice President Cheney's office repeatedly questioned whether the rule was needed. Waxman, who sent a letter to the White House asking for an explanation, said the exchange "appears to be the latest instance of the White House ignoring scientists and other experts." Since NOAA initially proposed the regulation, at least three right whales have died from ship strikes and two have been wounded by propellers.
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A dolphin swam up to two distressed whales that appeared headed for death in a beach stranding in New Zealand and guided them to safety, witnesses said. The actions of the bottlenose dolphin -- named Moko by residents who said it spends much of its time swimming playfully with humans at the beach -- amazed would-be rescuers and an expert who said they were evidence of the species' friendly nature. The two pygmy sperm whales, a mother and her calf, were found stranded on Mahia Beach, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of the capital of Wellington, said Conservation Department worker Malcolm Smith. Rescuers worked for more than one hour to get the whales back into the water, only to see them strand themselves four times on a sandbar slightly out to sea. It looked likely the whales would have to be euthanized to prevent them suffering a prolonged death, Smith said. "They kept getting disorientated and stranding again," said Smith, who was among the rescuers. "They obviously couldn't find their way back past (the sandbar) to the sea." Along came Moko, who approached the whales and led them 200 meters (yards) along the beach and through a channel out to the open sea. "Moko just came flying through the water and pushed in between us and the whales," Juanita Symes, another rescuer, told The Associated Press. "She got them to head toward the hill, where the channel is. It was an amazing experience. The best day of my life." Smith speculated that Moko responded after hearing the whales' distress calls. "They had arched their backs and were calling to one another, but as soon as the dolphin turned up they submerged into the water and followed her."
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Surfer Todd Endris needed a miracle. The shark ... had hit him three times, peeling the skin off his back and mauling his right leg to the bone. That’s when a pod of bottlenose dolphins intervened, forming a protective ring around Endris, allowing him to get to shore, where quick first aid provided by a friend saved his life. The attack occurred ... at Marina State Park off Monterey, Calif. “Truly a miracle,” Endris [said]. “[It] came out of nowhere. Maybe I saw him a quarter second before it hit me. But no warning. It was just a giant shark.” The shark, estimated at 12 to 15 feet long, hit him first as Endris was sitting on his surfboard, but couldn’t get its monster jaws around both surfer and surfboard. “The second time, he came down and clamped on my torso — sandwiched my board and my torso in his mouth,” Endris said. That attack shredded his back, literally peeling the skin back, he said, “like a banana peel.” But because Endris’ stomach was pressed to the surfboard, his intestines and internal organs were protected. The third time, the shark tried to swallow Endris’ right leg, and he said that was actually a good thing, because the shark’s grip anchored him while he kicked the beast in the head and snout with his left leg until it let go. The dolphins, which had been cavorting in the surf all along, showed up then. They circled him, keeping the shark at bay, and enabled Endris to get back on his board and catch a wave to the shore. No one knows why dolphins protect humans, but stories of the marine mammals rescuing humans go back to ancient Greece, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. The shark went on its way, protected inside the waters of the park, which is a marine wildlife refuge. Endris wouldn’t want it any other way. “I wouldn’t want to go after the shark anyway,” he said. “We’re in his realm, not the other way around.”
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The U.S. Navy wants to teach sailors how to hunt submarines off the coast of Jacksonville, but it's trying to prove its proposed undersea-warfare-training range won't hurt the world's most endangered whale. Concern about harm to the North Atlantic right whale from military sonar, vessels and torpedoes might pose a stumbling block to the proposed $100 million training range, which could be built near the whale's protected calving area. The U.S. Navy announced earlier this year that it wants to build the undersea-warfare-training range in a 662-square-mile zone nearly 58 miles off Jacksonville. Environmentalists fear whales could die from being run over by ships or becoming disoriented from the sonar. "Under federal law, environmental issues have to be placed on par with other national interests, including economic concerns and military training," said Michelle B. Nowlin, supervising attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at the Duke University School of Law. "The courts have been very clear there must be a balance of those interests." Federal reports say the death of even one pregnant female could risk the species' survival. That's why more than a dozen conservation groups have opposed a permanent range for the sonar-based warfare training near the calving grounds. Military sonar, broadcasting an active midfrequency signal at 235 decibels, has a lethal history, with a dozen cases worldwide of mass whale and dolphin strandings and evidence of damage to their hearing after underwater exercises.
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Hundreds of dead dolphins washed up Friday along the shore of a popular tourist destination on Zanzibar's northern coast, and scientists ruled out poisoning. The bottleneck dolphins, which live in deep offshore waters, had empty stomachs, meaning that they could have been disoriented and were swimming for some time to reorient themselves. They did not starve to death and were not poisoned. In the United States, experts were investigating the possibility that sonar from U.S. submarines could have been responsible for a similar incident in Marathon, Florida, where 68 deep-water dolphins stranded themselves in March 2005. A U.S. Navy task force patrols the East Africa coast as part of counterterrorism operations.
Federal marine specialists have concluded that Navy sonar was the most likely cause of the unusual stranding of melon-headed whales in a Hawaiian bay in 2004. The appearance of as many as 200 of the normally deep-diving whales in Hanalei Bay in Kauai occurred while a major American-Japanese sonar training exercise was taking place. The report is the latest in a series of scientific reviews linking traditional mid-frequency naval sonar to whale strandings. The active sonar used by navies sends out loud pings of sound that seem to frighten and disorient whales. The effect was documented off Greece in 1996 and established later during naval exercises in the Bahamas, off the Canary Islands and off Spain. In the 2000 Bahamas stranding, a local marine biologist collected some of the whales that died onshore and froze them for later study -- which helped NOAA conclude that sonar was the likely cause. Michael Jasny, a senior consultant with NRDC, said the NOAA report was worrisome. "Once again, the Navy's denial has been contradicted by the official government investigation. It's time for the Navy to stop this needless infliction of harm."
Naval maneuvers and submarine sonars in oceans are a new factor among many threatening dolphins, whales and porpoises that depend on sound to survive, the United Nations and marine experts said on Wednesday. "These low frequency sounds travel vast distances, hundreds if not thousands of kilometers from the source," [Mark Simmonds of the Whale and Dolphin Society] told Reuters. UNEP said underwater sonar and military maneuvers threatened more than 4 percent of species, although Simmonds indicated all were affected. In October, a coalition of environmental groups sued the U.S. Navy over its use of sonar, saying the ear-splitting sounds violated environmental protection laws. The report by UNEP and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) says species like the Beluga whale, Blanville's beaked whale and the Goosebeak whale are seriously at risk from noise pollution.
Dozens of dolphins and sea lions trained to detect and apprehend waterborne attackers could be sent to patrol a military base in Washington state, the Navy said Monday. The base is home to submarines, ships and laboratories and is potentially vulnerable to attack by terrorist swimmers and scuba divers. Several options are under consideration, but the preferred plan would be to send as many as 30 California sea lions and Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins from the Navy's Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego. Dolphins ... are trained to detect underwater mines; they were sent to do this in the Iraqi harbor of Umm Qasr in 2003. Sea lions can carry in their mouths special cuffs attached to long ropes. If the animal finds a rogue swimmer, it can clamp the cuff around the person's leg. The individual can then be reeled in for questioning. The last time the animals were used operationally in San Diego was in 1996, when they patrolled the bay during the Republican National Convention. The Navy has been training marine mammals since the 1960s and keeps about 100 dolphins and sea lions. Most are in San Diego, but about 20 are deployed at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga. The Navy is seeking public comment for an environmental impact statement on the proposal.
The Navy has acknowledged that vessels on maneuver off Hawaii in July used their sonar periodically in the 20 hours before a large pod of melon-headed whales unexpectedly came to shore in the area. The acknowledgment added to an already contentious debate over whether the sound from sonar has been causing marine mammals to strand. Navy officials said that a review of the July 3 incident indicates that two ships turned on their sonar between 6:45 and 7:10 a.m., by most accounts just before the unusual movement of almost 200 deep-water whales to the shoreline of a Kauai bay. The Navy had said earlier that no sonar was used until more than 90 minutes later, well after the animals came ashore. "Every time the Navy changes its story, it reduces its credibility on this issue," said Cara Horowitz, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Residents and government officials worked throughout July 3 to steer the whales back to open water, and all made it except one newborn calf that died of starvation. The Hawaii incident is the third significant one involving sonar and marine mammal strandings near the United States since 2000. The stranding of 17 whales of various kinds off the Bahamas in 2000, which resulted in the death of at least six of them, occurred during a major Navy maneuver. Navy officials at first said there was no connection between their exercise and the stranding, but later acknowledged that the loud sound from the sonar had caused the animals to flee ashore.
Wild dolphins are struggling with high levels of mercury and industrial pollution in the oceans off the coasts of Florida and South Carolina. The pollution is putting their immune system on constant alert, which makes it less able to fight off bacteria, fungus, viruses and parasites in the water, according to a study in the journal PLOS ONE. The industrial pollution was strongest in the oceans near Charleston, South Carolina in the US. Organic compounds released into the water accumulate in microorganisms – that are eaten by fish, which are in turn eaten by dolphins. The toxins become more concentrated in each step of the food chain. Large amounts of mercury were found in dolphins that live in the Indian River Lagoon. Previous research has shown that the Indian River Lagoon dolphins developed a fungal skin disease because of their suppressed immune systems and new viruses. Some of these are also potentially infectious to humans. By comparison, the dolphins kept in the Georgia Aquarium had fewer diseases and their immune systems were under a lot less stress. This is because the environment at the aquarium is more tightly controlled for water quality. Keeping dolphins in captivity comes with its own impact on the overall health of the mammals. Dolphins are highly intelligent and have complex social structures that can't be maintained in small tanks. As a result, dolphins in captivity live shorter lives than those in the wild.
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Scientists have made the first discovery in 100 years of a new river dolphin species in the waters of the Araguaia river in Brazil's vast Amazon rainforest. The discovery of the Inia araguaiaensis was officially announced earlier this week in a study posted online by the Plos One scientific journal. The study's lead author, biologist Tomas Hrbek, of the Federal University of Amazonas in the city of Manaus, said the new species is the third ever found in the Amazon region. "It was an unexpected discovery that shows just how incipient our knowledge is of the region's biodiversity," Hrbek said by telephone. "River dolphins are among the rarest and most endangered of all vertebrates, so discovering a new species is something that is very rare and exciting." He said: "people always saw them in the river but no one ever took a close up look at them." Hrbek added that scientists concluded the large dolphin was a new species by analysing and comparing DNA samples of several types of dolphins from the Amazon and Araguaia river basins. There [are] about 1,000 Inia araguaiaensis dolphins living in the 2,627km-long (1,630 miles) river.
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Something that has been missing from San Francisco Bay since World War II appears to be making a comeback: Harbor porpoises are showing up in growing numbers, and researchers are trying to understand why they're returning. Bill Keener ... is with Golden Gate Cetacean Research, a nonprofit group focused on studying local porpoises, whales and dolphins. Harbor porpoises, ... feeding in the middle of a busy shipping lane, spin as they go after schools of herring and anchovies. Seeing this behavior is huge for Keener because harbor porpoises are notoriously shy in the open ocean. But the fact that they're here at all is what's most remarkable. Keener and his colleagues have identified 250 porpoises with their photos by looking for unique scars on the animals. The big question, though, is why harbor porpoises disappeared in the first place. Keener says the bay has always been porpoise habitat. Sightings were common until the 1930s. "There were a lot of things going on during World War II that could have caused [the decline]," he says. Water quality has dramatically improved since the 1970s, which may be bringing the porpoises back.
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Baby bottlenose dolphins are washing up dead in record numbers on the shores of Alabama and Mississippi, alarming scientists and a federal agency charged with monitoring the health of the Gulf of Mexico. Moby Solangi, the executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport, Mississippi, said ... he's never seen such high death numbers. "I've worked with marine mammals for 30 years, and this is the first time we've seen such a high number of calves," he said. "It's alarming." At least 24 baby dolphins have washed up on the shores of the two states since the beginning of the year -- more than ten times the normal rate. Also, six older dolphins died.
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Interpol has placed the head of anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson, on its international wanted list. Interpol has issued a so-called blue notice, asking national police forces to pass on information about Mr Watson's whereabouts and activities. The Sea Shepherd leader has harassed the Japanese whaling fleet for the past few years, limiting the number of whales caught for so-called scientific research. Mr Watson, who is in the United States, says the notice does not make any sense. "It's a blue notice which means it's not an arrest warrant, it's just so they can keep tabs on me. But they needn't have wasted their time, they could have just followed our website," he said. "One thing that it does mean to me is that we're certainly getting to them. We cut their kill quotas in half and they're really desperate that we not go back down there this year. But I can tell them we'll certainly be back down in the Southern Ocean harassing them again in December."
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About 75 dolphins and 25 sea lions are housed at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego Harbor as part of a Navy program to teach them to detect terrorists and mines underwater. The base briefly opened its doors to the media Thursday for the first time since the start of the war in Iraq. The display came a few weeks after the Navy announced plans to send up to 30 dolphins and sea lions to patrol the waters of Washington state's Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, which is home to nuclear submarines, ships and laboratories. Both species can find mines and spot swimmers in murky waters. Working in unison, the dolphins can drop a flashing light near a mine or a swimmer. The sea lions carry in their mouths a cable and a handcuff-like device that clamps onto a terrorist's leg. Sailors can then use the cable to reel in the terrorist. The Navy's sea mammal program started in the late 1950s and grew to comprise 140 animals during the Cold War.
Note: Yet the navy's sophisticated new sonar systems are killing dolphins and whales around the globe. For more on this, click here. And what if the dolphins and sea lions go on strike for better wages? ;o)
Filmmaker Louie Psihoyos discusses his new documentary, "The Cove", a shocking and moving account of dolphin abuse off the coast of Taijii, Japan. Psihoyos and his team painstakingly documented a thriving operation that captures dolphins, the healthiest and handsomest of which are sold to aquariums worldwide. The rest are slaughtered, often ending up as food for human consumption, despite high mercury levels. Going into the village of Taijii, Psihoyos tells Fresh Air, is "like walking into a Stephen King novel." There's lots of visible marketing — statues, murals— proclaiming the town's love of dolphins. "The whole town was built around loving dolphins and whales. And then in the middle of town, is this national park that even Japanese people can't go in. Big tall fences, steel spikes on the gates, razor ribbon, barbed wire, a series of tunnels to get through on one side to get there — it was like a fortress. And Ric said, 'That's where this all happens' — in this national park.' " "Ric" is Ric O'Barry — a former dolphin trainer responsible for teaching the dolphins of TV's Flipper their tricks. He has devoted years to rescuing the intelligent mammals he once helped capture. "I get more upset with the dolphin trainers I see there than the fishermen," O'Barry tells Terry Gross. Japanese fishermen, he explains, think of dolphins as being in the same category as fish — not least, O'Barry says, because the Japanese character for "whale" translates literally into "monster fish." "But the dolphin trainers, who are there working side by side with them, look [the dolphins] in the eye every day," O'Barry says. "They give them names. They spend time with them. They know they're self-aware."
Pentagon scientists are planning to turn sharks into "stealth spies" capable of tracking vessels undetected, a British magazine has reported. They want to remotely control the sharks by implanting electrodes in their brains, The New Scientist says. It says the aim is "to exploit sharks' natural ability to glide through the water, sense delicate electrical gradients and follow chemical trails". The research is being funded by the Pentagon's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It aims to build on latest developments in brain implant technology which has already seen scientists controlling the movements of fish, rats and monkeys. Such devices are already being used by scientists at Boston University to "steer" a spiny dogfish in a fish tank. The next step for the Pentagon scientists will be the release of blue sharks with similar devices into the ocean off the coast of Florida. Remote-controlled sharks...have advantages that robotic underwater surveillance vehicles just cannot match: they are silent, and they power themselves.
Note: This article fails to mention that electronic implants we used over 40 years ago to control the behavior of bulls, as reported on the front page of the New York Times on May 17, 1965. To see the Times article, go to http://www.WantToKnow.info/delgadobullnytimes.pdf. For lots more reliable information on government mind control programs: http://www.WantToKnow.info/mindcontrol
The Defense Department gave the Navy permission Tuesday to keep training with sonar for another two years, a move denounced by activists who say the sound waves can harm dolphins and other marine mammals. Navy officials had sought the two-year exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act, allowed under the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act. The ranges are off Hawaii, Southern California and the East Coast. "We cannot stop training for the next two years," said Don Schregardus, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for the environment. "That would put our sailors in the Navy at considerable risk." Environmentalists cite incidents of whales, porpoises and dolphins that have become stranded en masse on beaches after being exposed to sonar. "The Navy has more than enough room in the oceans to train effectively without injuring or killing endangered whales and other marine species," said Joel Reynolds, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is suing the Navy over its sonar use. Navy officials said they're claiming a two-year exemption because a federal judge in California ruled last year that the Navy needed to do more detailed analysis of the effect its sonar training would have on the environment. The Navy says the new exemption will allow sailors to go ahead with 40 separate exercises over the next two years.
Note: For major media news articles on the damaging effects of certain advanced types of sonar in question on whole schools of dolphins and whales, click here.
Dolphins may be closer to humans than previously realised, with new research showing they communicate by whistling out their own 'names'. The research was carried out by Vincent Janik of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University. He said: "Each animal develops an individually distinctive signature whistle in the first few months of its life, which appears to be used in individual recognition." The research has its origin in the 1960s when dolphin trainers first noticed that captive animals each had their own personal repertoire of whistles. Janik's work was based on a group of dolphins living in Sarasota Bay, Florida, who have been studied for more than 30 years. The findings are supported by other authorities. Denise Herzing, research director at the Wild Dolphin Project at Florida Atlantic University, said it was already clear that many of the 77 known cetacean (whale and dolphin) species had rudimentary languages. "We know that dolphins brains are nearly as large and complex, relative to body size, as those of humans."
Alongside the submarines, ships and airplanes participating in large-scale military exercises in the Pacific this month, a team of sea lions and dolphins are expected to patrol the sea. These marine animals will be flown in from San Diego for simulated mine recovery and mine detection during the biennial RIMPAC war games. Six bottle-nosed dolphins would find the mines, while four California sea lions would help recover them. High-tech gadgets deployed by the military can't match the natural skills of the dolphins and sea lions. Sea lions have "incredibly good underwater hearing" and can dive to 1,000 feet to attach a recovery line to a simulated mine, he said. Dolphins use their sonar to find the mines. Marine mammals have been used by the Navy since the early 1960s. The animals save the Navy an estimated $1 million a year. The $15 million Marine Mammal Program has 75 dolphins and 30 sea lions at its San Diego facility. Opponents of the program say the military should not train animals for use in warfare.
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