Monday, December 29, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Puget Sound Researchers Find Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Orcas
For example, a fungus called cryptococcus gattii has been implicated in the deaths of dozens of harbor porpoises in the Northwest, he said. That same fungus has resulted in the deaths of numerous pets and serious illness for humans. Some researchers believe the fungus was brought to British Columbia in a eucalyptus tree from Australia, where the fungus is native. Spores may have washed into stormwater flowing into the Georgia Basin, which connects with Puget Sound. Nobody can say whether the seven deaths of orcas this year were connected to cryptococcus or any other organism, because none of the carcasses were found. Researchers did obtain a blubber sample of one emaciated whale that later disappeared. They are waiting for test results to see if a cause of death can be determined. "One thing we want to learn," said Bain, "is whether there is a correlation between the number of species (of bacteria) and the mortality rates of the whales," he said. In other words, are the individuals with a greater bacterial load at greater risk of getting sick and dying? Schroeder, a marine mammal veterinarian, said two groups of bacteria found by the researchers are of great concern. They are the Vibrios and Claustridiums, which are known to cause death in immune-compromised individuals. "The same biological rule holds true in people and in animals," he said. "You can carry these pathogens around, but they have to get into your system through an open wound. Even then, you might fight them off if your immune system is in good shape." One concern for the orcas, however, is that they contain some of the greatest concentrations of toxic chemicals of any marine mammals in the world. The chemicals include polychlorinated biphenyls, believed to impair the immune system. Another factor that could weaken the whales is a shortage of salmon, which can cause them to use up their fat reserves in search of food. Lack of salmon has been mentioned frequently as a likely factor in the seven recent deaths. Bain, Schroeder and their colleagues in British Columbia have not found major changes in the bacteria they discovered during their three-year study of the Puget Sound whales, known as Southern Residents.
They would like to continue the research, which is funded by the National Marine Fisheries Service, and include Northern Residents, a related group of orcas in British Columbia. Schroeder said the bacterial counts in water and orcas could become an important indicator of ecosystem health. One reason he and Bain have begun talking about their unpublished research is to get the attention of the Puget Sound Partnership, which is putting together an Action Agenda for restoring Puget Sound. "My standpoint as a veterinarian is that I want to find out if we can prevent these animals from becoming ill," Schroeder said. "If we identify enough of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we can start source studies." Tracking the bacteria to their sources — possibly sewage-treatment plants, boat discharges and urban stormwater — could be the key to reducing the orca's exposure to the dangerous pathogens, Schroeder said. Sewage from the city of Victoria is released practically untreated into waters not far from where the whales spend much of their summers. "That," said Schroeder, "is the elephant in the room." Treating the whales for illness is beyond the realm of current research. Schroeder has worked with whales and dolphins in captivity where blood tests reveal the health of an individual. In wild "herd animals," such as orcas, signs of illness may go unrecognized until an individual is so ill that it drops out of its group. If a wild whale could be diagnosed in time, Bain said it could open the door to using the appropriate antibiotics to treat the disease and reduce the risk of wiping out the entire population. That level of manipulation is sure to generate controversy. But knowing that the orcas are surrounded by unnatural bacteria, as well as a variety of man-made chemicals, could change management goals for saving the whales.
source - Kipsap Sun
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Help stop the expansion of unsustainable salmon-farming practices in B.C.
photo - Rachael Griffin
Click Here - to Help stop the expansion of unsustainable salmon-farming practices in B.C.
photo - Rachael Griffin
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
IMGP3499, originally uploaded by Aqua Green.
Aggregated - Arbutus Bay
Monday, November 03, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
83 Southern Residents
photo - L67/Splash by Rachael Griffin
photo - L67/Splash by Rachael Griffin
Monday, October 06, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
Sombrio Beach Grey Whales
Two grey whales were feeding near Sombrio Beach during our stay from August 29 to September 2, 2008.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
New calf in L pod!
photo - L7/Canuck - L pod member
New L pod calf L111, discovered on August 12, 2008, born to L47. Researchers photographed fetal folds indicating a very recent birth. L47 was witnessed on August 11th without a calf further indicating a birth date of August 12th. This is the sixth calf for L47, L111 joins sisters L91/Muncher and L83/Moonlight who had her own son this time last year, L110. Last year L pod had 43 members, the Center for Whale Research (CRW) has yet to officially confirm two missing members making this a very important birth for L pod.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
See and Hear Orcas!
Orca Sounds - click on "Listen to OrcaSound on San Juan Island"
K7 - Lummi - presumed dead
Center for Whale Research
Monday, July 21, 2008
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
More than 500 people from 76 countries attended the 60th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Santiago, Chile. Of these, 316 were members of delegations, 161 were observers and 103 were media representatives. As a planet burning exercise (in accumulating air miles) it was no doubt a great success, but as a means to an end (saving or killing whales) it must be recorded as ephemeral at best. The Chairman’s theme was peace and harmony at last, to be achieved through sincere effort on all (both) sides during negotiations to be carried out over the next 12 months, with a view to settling the main issues and thereby simultaneously providing comfort to foe and friend. It reflected a seemingly worthwhile ambition, i.e. to fix a broken instrument and turn it into a useful tool. The subtext here is to give Japan what it wants (read, what whalers want) and give pro-whale advocates what they want. In practice, this could mean giving Japan the right to kill whales in its nearby waters, thereby satisfying or at least calming the ardent nationalists who are driving the government’s agenda; and on the pro-whale side it could mean creating a whaling-free southern hemisphere, thereby satisfying the most ardent whale advocates, i.e. Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and the whales’ other Latin lovers. We will have to wait a bit to see whether Dr. Hogarth’s vision is mere fantasy or something tangible. My guess (bet) is that it is rather like morning mist that comes with the rising sun… so often, and so disappointingly, it turns what promises to be a glorious day into a murky haze that lasts until night falls (again). Lurking behind the congratulatory and appreciative remarks directed at the Chair for playing Saviour-at-last, the hard edges remained. Despite apparently genuine attempts from both sides, achieving consensus in this meeting turned out to be impossible, and it took very little to turn politeness into rowdyism. “Very little” is perhaps an unfair term, as saving the lives of the 10 humpback whales who will survive this year is no small matter - either to the individuals who will continue their lives in the wondrous manner of their kind, or to a humpback population which is still recovering from care-less plundering. Reading the face of one NGO who expressed joy at having saved the lives of real whales, I knew that this contest of wills is not going to be resolved easily, or soon. To those who know whales for what they truly are (advanced, sentient beings) there is no question as to where the future of the relationship between our species and theirs lies. Knowing truth with such certainty lends passion, grit and endurance to whale-savers, one might almost say, unstoppable energy. To them there is no alternative – the contest will go on, until the point is won. The unfortunate reality of this forum is that no-one really wants the fight to continue - hence Chairman Hogarth’s search for a way out, and hence the absence of an offer to host the 2010 meeting. There is widespread acknowledgement that the whaling issue divides and distracts potential allies on another, vastly more urgent front: global warming. Japan and Europe are already agreed in their determination to fight climate change, and there is every reason to believe that the US will join them after the coming Presidential election. This single issue clearly trumps every other on our planet’s agenda. If “we” do not find a way to deal with it now there will be no agreeable future, for the whales or for our grandchildren and their progeny. They will inherit a bleak world from us, and it will take millennia or even eons to restore the gift we inherited. The only possible way out or forward is for everyone (all governments) to work together in the common cause that now binds us. Our response will seal humanity’s fate. The most unfortunate aspect of the whaling issue is that it creates a significant impediment to working effectively in this common cause. My conviction, and it was agreed to by everyone I spoke with (pro and anti whatever) at this IWC 60 meeting, is that the whaling issue must be set aside (if not resolved) so that everyone in the IWC room can truly work together to address the only problem that must be solved, if humanity is to have a viable future. The choice is ours. As a footnote, at the airport on my way out of Santiago, I had a chance to look at the verbatim transcript of the meeting which set up the IWC in 1946. It was clear that this was an attempt by the whalers’ allies to arrange the future in an agreeable way (to them). Interestingly though, it was also apparent that the International Whaling Commission was originally created as a temporary expedient to protect whales in lieu of the unformed character and yet to be determined mandate of the United Nations. Had the IWC been from the outset an organ of the UN, we would be seeing a very different tune played today. By the time the next meeting of this club rolls around, in Portugal’s island paradise of Madeira in June ‘09, we will know more about what the future holds for this fractured body, the whales, and ourselves. We can only hope that in the time between, a way can be found to set the whaling issue aside so that the international community can get on with what must be done, and can only be done together. Failing this test, we will find ourselves back in an IWC future we unfortunately know all too well.
By Paul Spong
July 4, 2008
Please use or distribute at will. For additional stories about IWC 60, see www.orcalab.org and http://www.earthisland.org/immp/index.htm as well as others accessible via search engines like Google that will give you much news & many views under “whaling”.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Stop Plans to Drill US Coastlines!
McCain, Bush, and Gingrich are organizing a push to drill for oil along our coastlines and lift a 27 year moratorium. They seem to be taking advantage of high gas prices to help their friends in big oil make even more money. Opening up our coastline to drilling will take up to 10 years before the first drop of oil would reach your local gas stations and it would last for less than 10 years - yet the devastation it will cause is hardly worth the price. Opening national coastlines to oil exploration would begin with seismic testing to find where the oil is located. Seismic blasts have a decibel level of 260 - that's more than twice as loud as an ambulance siren. Whales, dolphins and other marine mammals rely on their sense of hearing to navigate, to locate food and to communicate with each other. Exposure to this level of sound underwater can cause deafening disorientation and can lead to permanent damage and brain hemorrhaging and even cause entire pods of whales and dolphins to beach. Only last week over 100 melon-head whales beached off of Madagascar close to where ExxonMobil was conducting seismic testing.
Sign the Petition
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Robson Bight Update
In the aftermath of the accident, fully 25% of the Northern Resident orca community was exposed to toxic diesel fumes. The health consequences of this exposure are potentially very serious. Though some of the exposed groups have been sighted during the past few months & appear intact, the most heavily exposed group, the A30 family, has not been seen at all. It has been common for the A30s to be sighted in northern B.C. waters by now, so their absence is a worry. However, the deviation from expected behaviour does not mean the A30s are in trouble. We hope the concerns are in our minds and not their bodies, but we are anxiously awaiting the first sighting of this important and favourite orca family.
None of this delay was necessary. The government has powers that enable it to take urgent actions when needed, and can issue contracts by Direct Award. Doing this avoids cumbersome delays built into the competitive bidding process, and facilitates getting jobs done that must be done in the public interest. Given the dire urgency of the situation in Robson Bight, and the clear public interest involved, it was obvious that a Direct Award of the salvage contract was not only appropriate, but necessary. Unfortunately, despite urging from North Island MLA Claire Trevena and non-government groups, BC’s Environment Minister Barry Penner could not be convinced. The upshot is the situation that we, and the orcas, are now facing.
At this point, the clear priority is for steps to be taken to protect the orcas, and the sensitive ecology of Robson Bight, from a potential release of diesel from the tanker before it can be removed. This means oil spill cleanup equipment needs to put in place, with a trained crew nearby and on standby. We are left with the hope that governments are able to put these essential contingency plans in place, in time. Given the slow pace at which governments have acted so far, it is very difficult to be optimistic.
An anxious summer lies ahead.
As ever, this come with our best wishes to you all,
Paul & Helena
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Greenpeace - Whale Meat Scandal
Stake outs, testimony from informers, hidden cameras and tailing trucks full of stolen goods - it reads like a Hollywood movie, but it was an every day experience for Greenpeace activists in Japan, who have spent four months cracking open a major conspiracy of corruption at the heart of Japan's government-backed, sham scientific whaling operation.
Sign Petition here!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
Aggressive bird, entirely white, orange bill with large black basal knob and naked black lores. Curved neck is often stained with pigments from iron or algae. Legs and feet are black. Feeds on aquatic plants collected from bottom. Direct flight with strong steady wing beats. Prefers freshwater, salt marshes, and protected bays. The familiar pose with neck curved back and wings half raised, known as busking, is a threat display. There have been many reports of Mute Swans attacking people who enter their territory. Their wings are believed to be so strong that they can break a person's arm with one hit.
Mute Swan - orange bill
Trumpeter Swan - black bill
Whooper Swan - yellow and black bill
Ref - What Bird
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
PLAN TO SALVAGE ROBSON BIGHT WRECKAGE
The British Columbia government and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans will salvage critical pieces of wreckage from Robson Bight following the August 2007 barge incident, Environment Minister Barry Penner and federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Loyola Hearn announced today. “Working in co-operation with the federal government, we have determined that this is the best way to proceed,” said Penner. “As with any salvage operation, there will be risks involved but we want to retrieve the equipment as soon as possible while minimizing potential impacts to orcas and other wildlife.” Recent video footage of the sunken equipment in Robson Bight Ecological Reserve shows that the vehicles are mostly upright and relatively undamaged, and do not appear to be leaking. “Recognizing how ecologically sensitive Robson Bight is, it’s important for our two levels of government to work together, so we can remove the major risk of future pollution in Robson Bight from the barge incident,” said Hearn. “We will consult with experts to determine the best approach to minimize the potential risk of this salvage operation.” The B.C. Ministry of Environment contracted with technical experts to provide additional analysis of the equipment in Robson Bight. This helped the two levels of government assess the risks posed by the equipment and identify options for its mitigation. Those analyses included a look by Environment Canada at the possible effects if any of the remaining petroleum products are released, and reviews by other experts to further assess the condition and stability of the tanker sitting on the seabed. The partners then reviewed the experts’ findings before determining next steps. Operational details of the salvage operation will be released shortly. On Aug. 20, 2007 a barge carrying vehicles and forestry equipment foundered, dumping 11 pieces of equipment inside the boundary of the protected area.
Ministry of Environment
250 889-7972 (cell)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
604 209-6225 (cell)
Ref - http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2005-2009/2008ENV0042-000569.htm
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Robson Bight Clean Up
When a barge dangerously laden with logging equipment, including a tanker truck of diesel fuel, spilled its load in the heart of the world’s best known orca habitat – the Ecological Reserve at Robson Bight - last August 20th, whale lovers were outraged, environmentalists dismayed, the public alerted, and even the oil industry took note. Canada’s initial response, via its Coastguard, was to discount the possibility of serious impacts by claiming all the oil and fuel had been released and dispersed. Eventually, after being pressured by NGOs who raised the funds needed to conduct an underwater investigation, the governments of British Columbia and Canada commissioned an underwater inspection of the spill site. This was completed in early December. Months later, despite video evidence (www.livingoceans.org) that the tanker truck is intact and probably still full of toxic diesel fuel we are still waiting for an announcement that the next obvious step – cleanup – will be undertaken before the orcas return in early summer. Organising and conducting the cleanup will take time, once the decision is made, and time is passing quickly. Meanwhile, a ticking toxic time bomb is lying on the ocean floor 350m below Robson Bight. The absence of official reaction to the evidence from the underwater inspection is puzzling, and disturbing. The only thing that seems clear is that once again the governments are dragging their feet. Possibly they are hoping the problem will go away if they ignore it long enough. That simply isn’t good enough. The orcas will return soon, probably in June & no later than July. If the fuel tanker isn’t removed by the time the orcas arrive, it will be considered too risky to do the job until they leave again in the fall or early winter. This means the cleanup could be pushed back to next spring. Meanwhile, the diesel might remain inside the tanker, or it might not. If it is released when orcas are present, the result could be catastrophic. Leaving it lying at the bottom with orcas swimming above is foolhardy and negligent. For the orcas’ sake, and to ensure the ecological integrity of Robson Bight, the job must be done now. Waiting any longer is not an option. As a matter of urgency, please insist that Canada and British Columbia act now. Thank you.
Here are the contact details:
The Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
200 Kent St. Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0E6 Canada
fax: 1-613- 995-7858
The Honourable Barry Penner
Minister of the Environment
P.O. Box 9047, Stn. Prov. Gov't.
V8W 9E2 Canada
Refs - OrcaLab
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Great Blue Heron and Bald Eagle
A major food source for the Great Blue Heron (GBH) and Bald Eagle (BE) is the Pacific salmon. By maintaining a healthy environment these animals and humans can both benefit form conservation methods.
The GBH is a long legged grey-blue bird that wades in the shallows and stands motionless waiting to spear fish. They are sometimes mistaken for cranes but can be distinguished by their looped necks in flight. The GBH has a magnificent 6-foot wingspan and juveniles are brown in colour. Great Blue Herons nest in colonies of up to 30 nests, called a heronry. Both males and females share egg incubation and feeding responsibilities. These animals can search up to 30 miles hunting for food. Herons require quiet, large forested, cliff, or lagoon areas to be able to reproduce successfully. Heronries can be found in the Fraser River, Beacon Hill Park and the oldest in Stanley Park. Many of these birds can bee seen foraging off Roberts Bank near the Tsawwassen ferry terminal.
The Bald Eagle has a maximum 8-foot wingspan. Bald Eagles are piebald animals, lacking pigment, resulting in white head and tail feathers. The BE’s beak, feet, and irises are yellow. Their legs are not feathered and they have short powerful toes with long talons. The front 2-hold their prey and the 3rd hind toe has the largest talon used for piercing. The body of the BE is black and juveniles are brown mottled with white. The BE historically ranged throughout North America and are now only found in Alaska, Canada, Florida, and the Northwest America. The BE mates for life and breeds in old growth forests. During the winter these animals disperse to the inland to forage in rivers upon salmon.
Threats to the GBH and BE include noise pollution, industrial contaminates (decreasing egg shell thickness), decreased food availability, and habitat destruction. Encroaching civilization decreases these bird populations. Land development and logging also threaten the survival of salmon streams, a major food source for both birds and humans. Maintaining healthy green spaces near coastal habitats can protect these species. Using organic, biodegradable products, recycling, and decreasing our carbon footprint can all decease pollutants, thereby producing a cleaner, healthier, and more productive environment for both animals and humans.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Adopt a Small Fry and Save BC's Wild Salmon
* Raise our collective voice by joining Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society.
* Donate whatever you can to the Adopt a Fry campaign.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Erich Hoyt is an author and senior research fellow for WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. He feels that creating MPAs for cetaceans can have a far-reaching impact in conserving other species, and whole ecosystems. Marine scientists Ana Cañadas and Ric Sagarminaga working the Alboran Sea off the coast of southern Spain are identifying critical habitats for migratory species while working with various local groups whose livelihoods depend on a healthy sea.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Monday, February 04, 2008
North Eastern Pacific Seashore Animals
Northern Red Anemone, Tealia crassicornis
5" high, 3" wide, approximately 100 thick, blunt tentacles, frequently ringed with white, red, or dark pigment. Listed as T. felina in some references, this species size is a function of food availability rather than age.
Green Green Sea Anemone, Anthopleura xanthogrammica
Column greenish brown; tentacles green, blue, or white; oral disk green, gray, or blue. Numerous short thick tentacles, in 6 or more rings.
Plumose Anemone, Metridium serile
This anemone is common on subtidal bottoms on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. Note the feathery and delicate tentacles.It feeds upon smaller zooplankton. Individuals often exceed 15 cm in length and may be over a meter in length. Under strong current conditions the feathery tentacles are retracted.
Aggregating Anemone, Anthopleura elegantissima
Gooseneck Barnacles, Pollicipes polymerus
This barnacle may look like a mollusk but it is in fact a crustacean related to shrimps, lobsters and crabs. Barnacles attach themselves to rocks by their heads and feed by means of their feathery legs. Their resilient stalks are tough enough to withstand the forces of the sea tossing them in the surf. Goose barnacles are edible and have been exported to Spain as a delicacy.
Yellow Shore Crab, Hemigrapsus oregonesis
California Mussels, Mytilus californianus
Thin blue-black covering (periostracum) over shells, often with streak of brown, and a series of rounded ridges extend the length of each shell.
Mossy Chiton, Mopalia muscosa
Girdle covered with stiff hairs. It does not hide under rocks like most chitons so it is readily visible in diredt light. It stays in one place until dark then begins feeding on algae. Unlike the soft girdle hairs of the Hairy Chiton the Mossy Chiton has stiff hairs. Individuals have a home range of 50 cm.
Male Water Jellyfish, Aequored aequored (Aequored victoria)
15 cm diameter, luminescent at night, found worldwide, males are blue in colour.
Female Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
The female Hooded Merganser is brown overall with a bushy brown crest, gray upper breast and flanks and white markings on the wings. The upper bill is dark brown and the lower bill is dark yellow.
Male Hooded merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
Small merganser with black upperparts and white underparts with two black bars on side of breast; red-brown flanks. Crest shows large white patch when raised, white stripe extending backwards from the eye when lowered, and dark bill. Dark wings have white shoulder patches visible in flight.
Harlequin Duck, Histrionicus histrionicus
Leaves the salt water in spring to breed in fast-flowing rivers and streams. An endangered species on the Atlantic coast, dives to the bottom of streams, where it walks along searching for food. Known as 'sea mice' and 'squeakers' because of their mouse-like call, they congregate at traditional winter sites to feed in the swirling waters of shallow and rocky coastal areas.
Male Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Medium-sized dabbling duck with gray body and chestnut-brown breast. The head is green and neck ring is white. Bill is yellow-green. Wing speculum is white-bordered metallic purple-blue. The tail is dark with distinct white edges and two curled black feathers. Legs and feet are orange.
Female Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Large, hawk-like bird, dark brown body and white head, tail. Heavy bill, legs, feet, eyes are yellow. Hunts for fish, which it sometimes steals from ospreys. Eats carrion and crippled or injured squirrels, rabbits, muskrats and waterfowl. Flap-and-glide flight, also soars on thermals.
Sea gull with kelp crab