The Beacon

Blog Tags: Whales

Threat of Arctic Drilling Looms Large

polar bear photo

A polar bear in Alaska. [Image via Wikimedia Commons.]

Troubling news for the Arctic: This week the government decided to uphold its 2008 decision to lease parts of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea for oil and natural gas drilling.

The decision comes despite an environmental impact statement, released in August, which stated that the approval of Chukchi Sea development will harm subsistence activities, air and water quality, threatened and endangered species, wetlands, and a multitude of mammal, bird and fish species.

We are continuing to fight against unsafe Arctic drilling by filing litigation, raising grassroots support, and conducting further research into the possible effects of oil drilling and spills in the Arctic. You can help by donating now.

Another recent study, conducted by the US Geological Survey for the Department of the Interior, found serious gaps in the scientific knowledge about the possible consequences of Arctic drilling.

Dr. Chris Krenz, Arctic Project Manager for Oceana, said of the decision:

“If corporate oil giants will get to make trillions of dollars from the nation’s oil in the Chukchi Sea, we can afford to spend a few million dollars on science to understand how the Arctic Ocean functions and make sure development is done right.

We know the Arctic is home to such iconic species as polar bears, walrus and beluga whales. We know the bounty of the Arctic seas supports the subsistence way of life for coastal communities. Yet we know very little about how the different components of this ecosystem fit together. With receding sea ice, the Arctic is becoming more accessible.

 Just because we can now reach this place doesn’t mean we should develop it. The science simply is not yet there to determine if this kind of industrial activity is feasible without destroying the remote and fragile offshore Arctic.”

Just over a week ago, we delivered nearly 33,000 signatures from our dedicated activists, asking the government to delay Chukchi lease sales until more detailed research can determine whether and how Arctic oil drilling can be accomplished safely. 

Please donate now to help save the people and marine life of the Arctic from dangerous drilling!


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Oceana Proposes a Canary Islands MPA

Last week, in a culmination of several years of work, our European colleagues presented a proposal to protect 15% of the marine area around Spain’s Canary Islands. If the proposal is accepted, it would multiply the current protected area by 100.

Here’s the back story: In 2009 the Oceana Ranger, our research catamaran, sailed to the Canaries, which are off the coast of Morocco. Over the course of two months, the crew documented the seamounts and seabeds of the archipelago, and found a dozen species never before seen in the area, and filmed many rare species, including three-foot-tall glass sponges, Venus fly-trap anemones and lollipop sponges. (For more on the Canaries see this piece from our magazine last winter.)

The protected area would harbor many other threatened species in the area, such as sea turtles, deep-sea sharks, seahorses, the giant grouper, blue and right whales and the white gorgonian.


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Oil Spill Quote of the Day

From CNN.com on Monday:

"We can see the beaches; we can see the dead animals; we can get a count on turtles and whales and all this stuff -- and all of that is eye-level observation," said [Ed] Overton, a professor emeritus at Louisiana State University and a veteran of oil-spill science.

"What we don't know is what damage is done ... to little creatures down below the surface -- or just at the surface -- that we never see."


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Oil Spill Quote of the Day

Today’s Oil Spill Quote of the Day features Elizabeth Griffin Wilson, one of our very own scientists:

 From yesterday’s Guardian:

Some 1,020 sea turtles were caught up in the spill, according to figures (pdf) today – an ominous number for an endangered species. Wildlife officials collected 177 sea turtles last week – more than in the first two months of the spill and a sizeable share of the 1,020 captured since the spill began more than three months ago. Some 517 of that total number were dead and 440 were covered in oil, according to figures maintained the Deepwater Horizon response team.


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Fact of the Day: Narwhal

Narwhals (credit: Glenn Williams)

You may recognize this funny looking marine mammal as the large, talking cartoon whale from Will Ferrell’s “Elf” but the narwhal (or “corpse whale” in Old Norse) actually is a very real toothed whale that lives in cold, Arctic waters. 

Only male narwhals have the characteristic long tusk, which is actually a super long tooth that can grow up to 10 feet. It is unknown exactly what purpose this tooth serves but scientists do know that it is not used for hunting. 

Check out more about these ‘unicorns of the sea’ and other crazy creatures!


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Factsheet: The Timor Sea Oil Spill of 2009

For more, read the PDF of this factsheet.

On August 21, 2009 the Montara oil rig suffered a blowout and began spilling oil. The well was located in 250 ft of water, between East Timor and Australia. It took four attempts over ten weeks to block the leak and it was eventually achieved when mud was pumped into a relief well.


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10 Ways the Oil Spill Could Affect Marine Life

oiled bird

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

While oil-covered birds have become an emblematic image of catastrophic oil spills, sea birds aren’t the only ones affected. Oil is extremely toxic to all wildlife, and the toxic effects on marine life begins as soon as the oil hits the water.

 


Here are 10 examples of how marine life may be affected by the Gulf spill in the coming days, weeks and years


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Oil Spill Threatens Hundreds of Species

It just keeps getting worse.

A NOAA scientist has concluded that oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 5,000 barrels a day, five times the initial 1,000 per-day estimate. And a third leak was discovered yesterday afternoon. 

If the estimates are correct, the spill, which is nearly the size of Jamaica, could match or exceed the 11 million gallons spilt from the Exxon Valdez within two months -- becoming the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

 


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Where Are They Now?: Chanel Gemini, Nika Kashyap & Sabina Van Tilburg

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the 2009 Ocean Heroes finalists.

Today we’re catching up with 2009 ocean hero finalists Sabina van Tilburg, Chanel Gemini and Nika Kashyapone, the three girl scouts who were instrumental in convincing the state of Hawaii to become the first state in the U.S. to officially recognize World Oceans Day. They obtained over 650 signatures on their petition and received the support of many non-profits and government agencies such as the Nature Conservancy and NOAA.

Here’s Sabina's update:

“As a Girl Scout troop, we are currently working on our Gold Award, the highest award for Girl Scouts and selling lots and lots of cookies! We have recently been focusing on recycling, gardening, buying local, and learning more about our community. Along with that we have been participating in a lot of beach clean ups, fishpond clean ups and restorations, working in the lo'i which are Hawaiian taro patches, and counting whales with NOAA, which you can learn more about at http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/involved/ocwelcome.html "

Inspired? Nominate someone you know -- young or old -- to be this year's ocean hero.


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Whale Wednesday: Pop Quiz

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

You only have until this Friday to take the Ocean IQ Quiz for a chance to win prizes, including a trip with SEE Turtles to watch sea turtles in the wild.

Here’s a whale-only quiz just for fun -- but no prizes here -- you have to go take the real quiz.

 

1. Scientists use the distinctive areas of hard pale skin on Northern right whales to tell individuals apart. What are they called?

a. fingernails

b. warts

c. callosities

d. eczemas


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