Dolphin and Whale News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on dolphins and whales
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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