Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Whale Of A Week

FEDS FIND OIL, GAS SEISMIC SURVEYS IN GULF OF MEXICO WOULD HARM OR HARASS MARINE MAMMALS UP TO 31.9 MILLION TIMES. The new report acknowledges what environmental groups have long warned
A sperm whale.
Sperm whales will experience as many as 760,000 harassing exposures to airgun blasting over the next decade, according to the draft environmental impact statement.

At a time when our oceans are already showing the stress of climate change, it just doesn't make sense to harm whales, dolphins, and other ocean wildlife in service of drilling for more oil we can't afford to burn.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has released a draft environmental impact statement that concludes seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico would cause significant harm to marine mammals. The long-awaited review comes in response to a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups.  Map of Gulf of Mexico, Outer Continental Shelf. G&G Programmatic EIS, Area of Interest.
Map of Gulf of Mexico, Outer Continental Shelf. G&G Programmatic EIS, Area of Interest.
Gulf of Mexico, Outer Continental Shelf. Geological & Geophysical Programmatic EIS, Area of Interest.

The analysis finds that as many as 31.9 million marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico will be injured and harassed by oil and gas seismic surveys. This includes 80 percent of the Gulf’s endangered sperm whale population, estimated at 763 animals. Sperm whales will experience as many as 760,000 harassing exposures to airgun blasting over the next decade.

The draft estimates that seismic blasting would cause as many as 588 injuries to the Gulf’s Bryde’s whales—of which only 33 individuals remain—or about 17 times for each member of this imperiled population.

“For years, industry has been allowed to blast away without permits, without authorizations, and without thought about how its activities are degrading the already beleaguered Gulf,” said Michael Jasny, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “This place is not a sacrifice zone. The federal government finally needs to take action once and for all and not condone this business-as-usual disregard for the health of these waters.”

Seismic exploration surveys use extensive arrays of high-powered airguns to search for oil. These generate the loudest human sounds in the ocean short of explosives. The blasts, which can effectively reach more than 250 decibels, can cause hearing loss in marine mammals, disturb essential behaviors such as feeding and breeding over vast distances, mask communications among whales and among dolphins, and reduce catch rates of commercial fish.
The new report finally acknowledges what environmental groups have long warned: that these sonic blasts cause harm to marine mammals. The report estimates that oil and gas seismic surveys will harm whales and dolphins with as many as 4.3 million instances of injury, including permanent hearing loss.

Prior to the lawsuit, the oil and gas industry conducted seismic surveys for decades without the permits required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

“Oil and gas surveys deafen and injure whales, and marine mammals shouldn’t have to endure these seismic assaults. It’s good to finally see an analysis of the airgun blasting after years of industry delays, and we really need to cut oil and gas exploration,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For the sake of our climate and sensitive marine life, we need to get the oil and gas industry out of oceans.”
According to a NRDC fact sheet, a single airgun array can disrupt vital behavior in endangered whales over an area at least 100,000 square nautical miles in size. For a sense of scale, here is that area centered over Washington, D.C.
COURTESY OF NRDC


According to a NRDC fact sheet, a single airgun array can disrupt vital behavior in endangered whales over an area at least 100,000 square nautical miles in size. For a sense of scale, here is that area centered over Washington, D.C.
The draft report outlines possible mitigation measures, including closure areas where seismic blasting would be banned, and reductions in the amount of activity permissible each year.

“For years we have raised concerns that the sound from oil and gas surveys was injuring the marine mammals of the Gulf,” said Cynthia Sarthou, executive director at the Gulf Restoration Network. “Protection of mammals in the Gulf is even more important now, as many are still recovering from exposure to oil and dispersant from the BP disaster.”

“Flooding the ocean with noise from seismic surveys is a devastating one-two punch for the ocean,” said Steve Mashuda, an attorney with Earthjustice. “At a time when our oceans are already showing the stress of climate change, it just doesn't make sense to harm whales, dolphins, and other ocean wildlife in service of drilling for more oil we can't afford to burn.”

The environmental review is open to public comment for 60 days. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit compelling the environmental review include NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network and Sierra Club, and are represented by Earthjustice.

Baby Whale Calf frees Mother after being trapped on Sandbank.
Baby Whale calf frees mother after being trapped on sandbank. Whale frees itself following stranding off Queensland's Stradbroke Island

Please move, mum: Brave baby whale nudges her 'distressed' mother to freedom after she becomes stranded on a sandbar. A baby humpback whale has freed her mother from a sandbank. The pair were swimming in the shallows off North Stradbroke Island. The calf was seen nudging the adult whale in an effort to move her. The pair managed to swim free and quickly moved to deeper water

A brave baby whale has freed her mother after the distressed humpback became stranded on a sandbank. Heartrending footage shows the pair swimming in shallow water off North Stradbroke Island in Queensland before the adult became stuck. The calf could be seen nudging her 'distressed' mother, who was splashing her tail trying to free herself. After circling her mother and pushing her from all sides, the calf managed to move her mother enough to help her escape. Rescue crews had been on the way to help the pair before they managed to swim off into deeper water. 'The calf is following behind the mother and both appear to be swimming on their own,' a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service spokesman told Daily Mail Australia. 'Boaties are asked to avoid the area for safety reasons, and also to give the animals the best chance of leaving the area safely.' This is the second time this week they had been stranded.

A whale has finally managed to free itself after spending hours stranded on a sandbar in waters off Stradbroke Island, east of Brisbane.

A Queensland Parks and Wildlife (QPW) spokesman said they first received reports on Thursday night of a mother and calf stranded on the sandbar at Dunwich, on North Stradbroke Island.

He said they managed to free themselves before the mother was re-stranded closer to shore this morning.

Footage shot earlier this morning showed the distressed calf swimming nearby and apparently trying to push it off.

At about 8:15am the mother managed to free itself.

A QPW boat is trailing the whales to help herd them out to sea and away from shallow waters.

A humpback whale and her calf are on their way to deeper water, after she got stuck on a sandbank off North Stradbroke Island. She got stuck at around 7:30am (Qld time) and was encouraged by her baby who was filmed trying to push her to safety. Both appeared to be pushing and splashing their tails in a bid to get the larger whale off the sand. Both were able to swim away from the sandbank from 8.10am. Other humpbacks were spotted close by.

A baby humpback whale has freed her mother from a sandbank. The pair were swimming in the shallows off North Stradbroke Island. The calf was seen nudging the adult whale in an effort to move her. The pair managed to swim free and quickly moved to deeper water.

A brave baby whale has freed her mother after the distressed humpback became stranded on a sandbank.

Heartrending footage shows the pair swimming in shallow water off North Stradbroke Island in Queensland before the adult became stuck. A humpback whale which was stranded on an Australian sandbank has freed itself after its calf was seen apparently nudging it into deeper water.
The whale was spotted near North Stradbroke Island, about 80km (50 miles) east of Brisbane, early on Wednesday morning. Her distressed calf was later seen apparently pushing her as she splashed in the water to get free. About 40 minutes after getting stuck, the whale was able to dislodge herself

Beached Whale Free After Calf Seen Nudging Her. Whale calf helps push its stranded mother to safety off North Stradbroke Island. Stranded humpback whale in Australia finally freed (Video)
Crews work to free stranded whales. Humpback whale calf helps free its stranded mother from Queensland sandbank. A whale calf just helped push its mother to freedom after getting stranded on a sandbank. Baby Whale calf frees mother after being trapped on sandbank. Whale frees itself following stranding off Queensland's Stradbroke Island

Help Stop Biggest Capture of Wild Orcas and Dolphins That is About to Take Place in Namibia. A shocking proposal has come to light that would see endangered dolphins, orcas, and other marine mammals trafficked out of the coastal waters of Namibia and taken to China for lifetimes in captive misery.
The Namibian Fisheries Ministry is currently entertaining the proposal, which would see a Chinese-owned company, Welwitschia Aquatic and Wildlife Scientific Research, capture and export live animals to China for “breeding purposes.” The list of the company’s demands includes 10 orca; 500-1 000 Cape fur seals; 300-500 African penguins; 50-100 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins; 50-100 common bottlenose dolphins; and various sharks.

Unless the Namibian Government denies the permit, the Russian-flagged vessel named Ryazanovka  – reportedly owned by a Chinese company – will get the go-ahead for the most deadly capture of orcas, bottlenose dolphins, pinnipeds, and penguins in history. The ship reportedly sits in Walvis Bay port, in Namibia, far from its sordid history in Russian waters where it has occasionally captured marine mammals for sale to foreign companies.

Trafficking Wild Marine Animals
While the exact stats of the vessel are known, international maritime tracking organizations say that they have never received any position data from this vessel. This could mean that it is attempting to hide from international scrutiny – something that would make sense, from the Chinese owner’s vantage point, considering their plans.

Additionally, reports are being received indicating that the crew of the Ryazanovka is verbally abusing and threatening persons who get close to the vessel.

In a letter to the Namibian Fisheries Ministry, the International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) alerted the Namibian Government that the permit application seeks to capture marine species that are poorly studied, threatened and potentially in decline. Many of the species identified, such as orcas, are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), making it illegal for any entity to capture and export them. Grating the permit would in no way, shape or form be appropriate scientifically, nor ethically.

The Namibian Government is still undecided as to whether it will allow the captures to move forward. The Fisheries Ministry has indicated that a decision will be made within the next few days.  The Chinese are also leveraging themselves by negotiating military bases in certain hotspot areas such as Namibia. Negotiations for such a proposed military base started with Namibia during 2014.

The Namibian Government should be aware that, if it grants the Chinese company this permit, they run the risk of seeing substantial impact on the tourism industry. This issue has now developed into an international incident that will continue to grow in size as more people become aware of what is being attempted.

There isn’t much time to try to turn the tide on this dangerous plan.
IMMP is calling on individuals and organizations to urgently email officials in the Namibian Government to deny the permit.

Please send emails to the following individuals:
Minister of Fisheries Bernhard Esau:

besau@mfmr.gov.na

Permanent Secretary Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Dr. Moses.Maurihungirire: 

Moses.Maurihungirire@mfmr.gov.na

Hon. Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta: 

shifeta_za@yahoo.com

Permanent Secretary Ministry of Environment and Tourism Malan Lindeque:

malan.lindeque@met.gov.na

IMMP is accepting donations that will be granted to grassroots organizations in Namibia who are working to prevent this situation.

For more information, please visit the International Marine Mammal Project’s website.

Image source: Christian Musat/Shutterstock