The Beacon

Blog Tags: Blue Whales

Video: Rare Blue Whale Footage Captured Off California

Blue whale footage captured off Laguna Beach

Underwater footage of the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) off Laguna Beach. (Photo: Rich German / YouTube)

While paddling off Laguna Beach recently, one lucky paddle boarder was in the right place at the right time to spot an elusive blue whale—an endangered marine mammal that’s rarely spotted. With a GoPro in hand, he was able to catch underwater and surface footage of the elusive marine mammal for the rest of us to see (check out segments at 2:00, 3:36 and 5:04 minutes in to see the underwater footage). 


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Ocean News: Mercury Levels Rising in Surface Waters, Penguin Species Threatened by Habitat Degradation, and More

King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) in the Falkland Islands

King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) in the Falkland Islands are a species threatened by habitat degradation. (Photo: Graham Canny / Flickr Creative Commons)

- According to a new study, mercury levels in many of the world oceans’ surface waters have tripled due to human activity. Because mercury drains into the ocean from mines, coal-fired plants, and sewage, mercury levels are higher in surface waters compared to the deep ocean. The Guardian


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Ocean News: Blue Whale “Hot Spots” Linked with Busy Shipping Lanes, Massachusetts Bans Shark Fin Trade, and More

Blue whales hot spots are in busy fishing lanes

A blue whale off of California. (Photo: millerm217 / Flickr Creative Commons)

- A new study found that blue whale “hot spots” off California intersect with some of California’s busiest shipping lanes, and that ship strikes are preventing blue whales from recovering. Blue whale numbers have increased since the International Whaling Commission’s 1966 protections, but they haven’t recovered at the rate scientists expected. National Geographic


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Whale Poo Found to Benefit Fisheries in the Southern Ocean

Blue whale excrement is essential for fisheries in Southern Ocean

A blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) (Photo: David Slater / Flickr Creative Commons)

Whale feces probably doesn’t cross your mind very often, but when it does, you likely cringe at the thought of its size, sight, and smell. Blue whales, for example, grow to be longer than a school bus and rank as the largest animals known to live on Earth, so naturally, they’re going to eat—and poop—a lot. A new study found that whale dumpings are highly valuable to marine ecosystems, and they’re not something to write off as stinky or gross.


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Whales Get Sunburns, Too

Sperm whales can develop sunburn-like blisters when swimming near the surface. (Photo: Paul Richards)

 

If you head to the beach without sunscreen, you’ll probably return home with a scarlet, painful sunburn. That’s because you’ve exposed your skin to several hours of UV rays, which damage DNA within your skin cells. But did you know that whales can get sunburned, too?


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Big Safeguards Achieved for Small Fish in California

Humpback whales feeding on forage fish in Monterey Bay ©Richard Fitzer

While lax catch limits for federally-managed west coast forage fish like sardines continue to be a source of major concern, the state of California announced today that, at least for state-regulated forage fisheries like squid and herring, it would embrace a new ecosystem-based management system, with an eye towards sustainability.

Forage fish may not be as charismatic as sharks or as majestic as blue whales, but, these small, nutrient rich species -- like squid and herring-- have finally received their long-awaited turn in the spotlight.

Forage fish pack a punch of nutrients to whales, dolphins, sea birds, and recreationally and commercially important fish. They are critical to the survival of our magnificent blue whales as well as the recovery of depleted Chinook salmon. However, until now, these little fish have not been managed in a way that accounts for the vital role they play in ocean health and ocean economics. This will change as the California Fish and Game Commission will now make their decisions on how to manage all the state’s forage species based on a set of principles that were fleshed out with input from conservation and fishing entities.


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The Hidden World of the Pacific Seafloor

In this gorgeous new Oceana video Alexandra Cousteau delves into Monterey Bay to illuminate the diversity of life at the bottom of the ocean, a crucial habitat that is under the constant threat of obliteration from bottom trawling. Using an ROV the camera captures an otherworldly scene, as scallops flutter by and curlicued basket stars unfurl. Armies of shrimp and brittle stars scamper by, fed by the organic matter from above that drifts down the water column like snowfall, sustaining a remarkably rich community. In shallower waters, coral gardens that take hundreds of years to blossom shelter rockfish and ingeniously disguised crabs, and serve as a nursery for dozens of species of fish. Here octopuses go camouflage against the rocky shale, out of sight of the hungry sperm whales and sea lions from above. Anemone-covered spires upwell nutrient rich waters that feed shoals of krill, which in turn feed blue whales. It is an intricately connected ecosystem and it can be destroyed in an instant by bottom trawling. That’s why Oceana has pushed for an end to bottom trawling in ecologically sensitive areas. And that work has paid off in concrete victories: in 2006 NOAA protected 140,000 square miles of Pacific seafloor from the destructive practice, but more needs to be done. For the most part this world goes unseen by human eyes and it’s why Oceana is working laboriously to document these precious areas before they disappear.


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Marine Monday: Antarctic Krill

What do blue whales, penguins and salmon have in common?

They all have the same diet. Much of the ocean is fed by a two-inch crustacean: krill. Antarctic krill congregate in huge masses in the Southern Ocean, dense enough to fill the belly of a blue whale, the world’s largest animal.

Penguins will march hundreds of miles to feast on krill, building up blubber that will help them survive their cold months on land. Even flying seabirds will dive in and partake of the abundance.

Without this tiny creature, the ocean would starve. But like so much else in the ocean, krill’s future is in danger. It is also a popular food for salmon, giving the fish’s meat that distinctive pink color. When humans build fish farms for predatory fish like salmon, we need to feed them. And that means that humans are now fishing krill to feed our farms, taking away potential meals from whales, penguins, and other wild creatures.

Oceana is working to prevent the overfishing of krill and the other small creatures that keep the oceans’ food chain going. To learn more about marine animals like Antarctic krill, visit our marine wildlife encyclopedia.


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Photo Slideshow: Punta de Choros

As we told you last Friday, the ecologically rich region of Punta de Choros, Chile, was recently spared from the construction of a coal-fired power plant in a dramatic decision by President Sebastian Piñera.

The announcement was the culmination of hard work by our colleagues in Chile alongside local organizations, and immense grassroots pressure from Chileans.

So what, exactly, was at stake? Humboldt penguins, sea lions and blue whales, to name a few of the creatures that call the area home. But judging from your comments on last week’s post, many of you already know how incredible this place is.

Here is further photographic evidence, enjoy:

 


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The Scanner

Happy Friday, everyone! Hopefully by now you've had a chance to fully digest your Thanksgiving leftovers, because I've got some ocean goodies for you to devour:

This week in ocean news,

...Wired Science pondered why blue whales' voices are growing deeper and deeper. Hypotheses revolve around increased noise pollution and the physics of sounds in increasingly warmer waters. Barry White Whale, anyone?

...For the first time, scientists were able to use DNA tools to trace the geographic origin of scalloped hammerhead shark fins in a Hong Kong fish market to their original location thousands of miles away. NPR ran a story about the DNA tool's potential to monitor endangered species trafficking several months ago.

...The Washington Post reported on the international efforts required to stop the overfishing of important marine species such as bluefin tuna and sharks. The article quotes Oceana's Courtney Sakai: "Shark fins are today's ivory tusks," Sakai said. "Like elephants, the world is realizing that sharks are more valuable alive than dead."

...Yesterday, after years of work by Oceana, federal regulations protecting 200,000 square miles of U.S. Arctic waters from industrial fishing went into effect.

...Conservation groups pled with the Obama Administration to protect the Okinawa dugong and other endangered wildlife -- including three species of sea turtle -- by cancelling plans to expand a U.S. military base near Henoko in Okinawa, Japan. There are only around 50 Okinawa dugong remaining in the world.

...Deep Sea News conducted an interesting thought experiment on why the largest animals in the sea, whales, aren't even larger.


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