Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believe they have identified a new species of whale in the Gulf of Mexico. The Rice’s whale is a filter feeder that can grow to 42 feet. It’s also critically endangered. There… Read More ›
Wildfire smoke is made up of a range of gases, including carbon monoxide; nitrogen dioxide; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs; and hazardous particulate matter, which has been shown to increase risks of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses in humans.
In June 2017, NOAA Fisheries published proposed whale protections for the surveys. By winter the division’s biologists saw a problem: The protections for the North Atlantic right whale were too weak and put airguns in their direct path.
The agency had proposed a seasonal ban on using airguns up to 47 kilometers (about 29 miles) from shore between November and April, when the whales were known to migrate and give birth along the mid- and south-Atlantic coast.
But peer-reviewed research led by a NOAA Fisheries analyst concluded the whales were traveling farther from shore than ever before — and directly into the path of the proposed survey activity. A draft report for the Navy reached a similar conclusion.
“With the ocean warming, we saw a shift in the ecosystem and in the feeding behavior of humpback whales that led to a greater overlap between whales and crab fishing gear,” said Jarrod Santora, a researcher in applied mathematics at UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering and first author of the study, published January 27 in Nature Communications.
Seismic blasting used in oil exploration can reach 250 decibels and be heard for miles. It can cause hearing loss, disorientation and disturb essential marine mammal behaviors such as feeding and breeding. Just over 300 Cook Inlet beluga whales are left after four more washed up dead in Cook Inlet in the past two weeks.
A listening station on the channel floor is able to capture whale calls as far away as 30 miles (48 kilometers), the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. That device is connected by cable to a buoy floating above that transmits data by satellite to scientists on shore.
So far, the cause of the die-offs remains a mystery, though theories include starvation from lack of food, or a disease that mimics chronic wasting disease. Teams of scientists are investigating what the casualties mean for the gray whale population as a whole. But some also fear that the deaths could be part of a larger trend as animals struggle to adapt to climate change. Said Ferguson: The “gray whales are just one piece” to the environmental puzzle.
Threats to the species include energy exploration and development, oil spills and clean up efforts, vessel strikes, human noise and entanglement in fishing gear. There are less than 100 of the whales left in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico near the De Soto canyon, where the population resides.