Humpback Whale Hunting Okayed
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) did not, as feared, vote to legalize commercial whaling. The Obama administration, for reasons incomprehensible to us, tried to broker a deal that would have allowed the resumption of commercial whaling.But, sadly, the IWC handed Greenland a quota to kill nine humpbacks each year from the population that winters in the Caribbean and passes by New England during the summer. The U.S. delegation was among those voting yes to this kill. The quota was granted on an “aboriginal need” by the Inuit of Greenland. But in outstanding investigative work, WDCS has shown that the meat of fin and minke whales now taken goes to high end restaurants and markets. The Inuit are getting cut out by the big money interests. —Hardy Jones
Texans Tackle Beach Trash
Days after the Cameron County Commissioners Court voted to charge beach visitors for trash cleanup, environmental activists clasped hands Saturday on South Padre Island to protest offshore oil drilling.
About 40 coastal residents stood hand-in-hand with several casual beachgoers, calling for government investment in cleaner energy policies.
Emboldened by the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the activists encouraged small-scale, individual efforts to limit humanity’s impact on the planet and praised a recent vote by the Cameron County Commissioners Court.
On Thursday, the court voted to begin an environmental pilot program increasing parking from $3 to $8 at the northernmost beach accesses, Nos. 5 and 6.
If visitors return a filled trash bag while exiting, attendants will give them $5 back.
“We are trying to push this effort pretty hard before any oil inevitably arrives here,” said South Padre Island resident Elaine Sanchez. “Even one piece of trash we get in a bag is some preventative measure we can all be responsible for before the mess reaches our shore.”
Sanchez joined the line of protesters at beach access No. 18 — one of over 600 such “Hands Across America” demonstrations that took place nationwide Saturday afternoon.
According to organizers, even if politicians fail to encourage the transition to much-needed alternative energy sources soon, the protest would not fall on deaf ears. “Events like this open avenues to new thoughts and creative mind-searching for better and newer ideas,” said co-organizer Aziza Baker, of Laguna Vista. “You never know what hearts you’ll reach,” she added. “We’re human beings and can harness our energies to at least solve (the oil spill).”
The activists engaged beach visitors in a conversation of what individuals could do to reduce damage to the planet while government and corporate leaders tried to tackle the larger issues. They highlighted using reusable grocery bags, carpooling to the beach, buying and recycling aluminum cans rather than using plastic bottles, and supporting efforts like Cameron County’s.
But one Port Isabel resident, Lizette Sala, said she can only get behind voluntary eco-friendly initiatives. Indicating a pile of old beer bottles near beach access No. 6, the 32-year-old said the $5 fee for not bringing back a filled trash bag was impractical.
“This isn’t even my trash,” Sala said. “I don’t bring enough of my own to fill a bag. … It’s not ok to charge me $5 because I don’t want to touch someone’s old beer can.”
The pilot program runs from July 1 to late September.
Among the lethargic families tanning and playing by the gulf, the protesters heard poems and looked at paintings by environmentalists Arturo and Nina Saldaña. The couple lives in Port Isabel and uses their work to depict the potential impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
One of Nina Saldaña’s pieces shows turtles swimming by an oil drum. South Padre Island resident Susan Greery — a volunteer with local conservation group Sea Turtle Inc. — said it touched her deeply.
“We just released 138 baby turtle hatchlings this morning,” Greery said. “It makes us sick since we have no idea if they’ll survive with everything spewing in the gulf.”
California Sea Lion Experience Unusual Pupping in 2010
So far 2010 has been packed with severe natural events: earthquakes, floods, and locally,an unusually great number of prematurely born California sea lions (CSL), Zalophus californianus. Females normally give birth on remote islands, away from people, however in 2010, pupping has occurred in crowded public places such as the public boat amp at the Coast Guard jetty/breakwater in Monterey (photo 1), Pier 39 in San Francisco, and under the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz. Not only are these locations bustling with people, they also are far north of normal pupping areas.
Female CSLs normally give birth in large groups (rookeries) from the California Channel Islands, south to Baja California, Mexico during summer. They nurse their pups for several months before pups are weaned and begin to hunt for fish own their own. Pups are not normally born in Monterey Bay.
During spring 2010 female CSLs were aborting premature pups along the central coast of California, far north of the normal pupping area. Pat Morris (UCSC) has
documented~300 premature CSL pup carcasses on Año Nuevo Island already this year. In a normal year, Pat usually sees 10 or 20 premature pups on Año Nuevo by this time.
In the past few weeks, however, females have been giving birth to full-term pups along the central California coast. Many of these pups have been abandoned, but some were seen nursing shortly after birth (photo 2) and may survive.
BeachCOMBERS and the marine mammal stranding network have documented the influx of CSL pups in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, and the situation may be
considered an unusual mortality event (UME). UMEs occur when the number of carcasses exceeds the threshold level (TL), which has been established by long-term
beach survey data during 1997-2007.
Data from The Marine Mammal Center indicate that live strandings of CSLs in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties are similar in number to last year, but still far greater than normal (Fig. 2). The number of live and dead strandings of CSLs are greater in Monterey county than Santa Cruz county so far for 2010 (TMMC unpublished data and Robin Dunkin-McClenahan personal communication).
The total number of stranded CSL pups examined in Monterey County through May 2010 already matches the total number examined during 2009 and greatly exceeds the number of pups examined during the previous four years (Fig. 3).
Pupping patterns similar to 2010 also were observed during 1998 and 1999; the last major El Niño years. El Niño oceanographic conditions are characterized by warmer coastal waters, which drive CSL prey (anchovies, sardines, etc.) greater distances from shore.
Pregnant females and yearlings (1-year-olds) may not have the energy reserves to swim the extra distance to acquire food, resulting in females giving birth before reaching normal pupping areas, females abandoning pups because of diminished nutritional condition, and emaciation/starvation of yearlings. Reports of dead stranded yearlings also are greater than normal for 2009 and 2010. Postmortem examinations of CSLs at
The Marine Mammal Center have revealed malnutrition as a primary cause of death in many cases (F. Gulland, personal communication).
Domoic acid (DA) poisoning may also be a contributing factor in the unusual pupping patterns during 2010. Domoic acid is a neurotoxin produced by the diatom Pseudonitzschia spp. It accumulates in top-level predators during harmful algal blooms, and causes disorientation, lethargy, and seizures in CSLs. These neurological sympotoms prevent normal foraging, causing CSLs to become severely emaciated, sometimes resulting in death. Domoic acid may be transferred to unborn pups in pregnant females and has been associated with premature births in CSLs (Brodie et al. 2006, Goldstein et
We may not know exactly what is causing the unusual CSL pupping circumstances in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary this year, but by documenting marine mammal strandings we can better track changes in the ecosystem. Information for reporting live and dead marine mammal strandings is listed below.
Links to More information
What to do if you see a dead/live stranded marine mammal
About Sea Lions
About domic acid
Compiled by Colleen Young (BeachCOMBERS). Unpublished data provided by
Stephanie Kennedy and Jim Harvey (MLML), Pat Morris (UCSC), Hannah Nevins
(MWVCRC/MLML) and Denise Greig, Frances Gulland, and Shelbi Stoudt (TMMC).