Editor’s Note: In light of the holidays, this is the last ocean news round-up to be published over the next week. In the meantime, please check our Twitter channel for ocean updates. Happy holidays!
- A new study has unlocked a key to dolphin communication: The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and the common bottlenose dolphin use whistle sounds as names for each other, even in the wild. The researchers say this is an important step to understanding how human activity may be affecting these species. Phys.org
- Brazil is planning to triple its Marine Protected Areas from 5.5 million hectares to over 17.5 million—a project that’s worth more than $18 million. The projected is intended to benefit the 43 million people who live along Brazil’s coast by securing a local food supply, maintaining water quality, and increasing coastal resilience. MercoPress
- New York City may seem like the last place to spot whales, but these cetaceans are making a comeback in the area. This summer, an eco-tourism group has spotted 52 whales alone. CBS News
Earlier this week, marine mammals like California sea lions, common dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins were the focus of one Congressional Briefing. Hosted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Congressman Bill Keating of Massachusetts and Congressman Jared Huffman of California, the discussion centered on scientists from The Marine Mammal Center and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center speaking about unusual levels of marine mammal stranding in 2013, and how funding cuts are deeply affecting their ability to respond.
Bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Western Australia are stealing the spotlight from Aussie surfers, and are proving that humans aren’t the only ones capable of catching that perfect wave.
For the second time in less than a year, Oceana has helped to defeat a coal-fired power plant on the coast of northern Chile. The CAP company announced last week that it was withdrawing its plans to construct the Cruz Grande thermoelectric power plant.
Cruz Grande was slated to be a 300-megawatt thermoelectric power plant in the region of La Higuera in Northern Chile, a few miles from the Choros-Damas and Chañaral island marine reserves, and near the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, which is home to the world’s largest population of Humboldt penguins. The region also hosts communities of bottlenose dolphins, marine otters and many marine birds and mammals, including blue whales.
These creatures and habitats were at risk from the plant’s emissions, which would have arrived quickly to the reserves. The plant would have used the area’s seawater to cool the plant, discharging it back into the ocean at higher temperatures. Oil spills from ships carrying coal to the plants would seep there in a few hours, and the local currents would retain the pollution within the area. Plus, mercury emissions from the plants would contaminate fish and mollusks like the Chilean abalone, damaging a crucial local industry.
On my second attempt to spot whale sharks yesterday, I flew with the effervescent Bonny Schumaker, whose organization On Wings of Care helps protect wildlife and their habitats by helping with search, rescue, rehabilitation and scientific research. Samantha Whitcraft of the non-profit Oceanic Defense also joined us for the flight. We took off from New Orleans and flew about 50 miles south over the Gulf.
Bonny and her 4-seater plane, whom she lovingly refers to as “Bessie,” have years of experience spotting wildlife. Unfortunately, despite Bonny and Bessie’s best efforts, the conditions yesterday were simply not ideal for finding marine life. Choppy waters and white caps made it a challenge to see much of anything besides oil rigs, oil boom and barrier islands:
A recent study conducted at the University of Hawaii provides “sound” evidence that sonar induces temporary deafness in bottlenose dolphins. Many have long blamed man-made noise -- mainly sonar used by the navy -- for mass strandings of whale and dolphin species. Although this study does not provide concrete proof that submarine and warship sonar activity is causing strandings, it does prove definitively that sonar activity can affect cetaceans if they are close enough to the source and exposed over a prolonged period of time. Whales and dolphins use sound for navigation and temporary deafness can leave them disoriented. They are traveling over very large distances and cannot afford to lose their sense of direction. If they were to accidentally swim into a shallow area or be washed ashore, they could rapidly become dehydrated and die.
This week in ocean news, ...A 72 million-year-old sea turtle fossil -- the oldest on record -- was discovered in Mexico. ...A council plans to vote in June on protecting the sea floor from Florida to North Carolina from bottom trawls, bottom longlines and other destructive fishing gear. The 23,000 square miles is thought to encompass the largest deepwater reef system in the world. ...Almost 200 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins were stranded on a beach in Tasmania, the fourth beaching incident there in recent months. ...The fisher poets (no relation to yours truly) had their annual gathering in Oregon. ...Scientists discovered a carnivorous sea squirt that looks like a desk lamp. ...As the OCYC notes, David de Rothschild is leading a project to build a 60-foot catamaran out of plastic bottles, called Plastiki, which he will sail from California to Australia. ...A Bengal tiger cub and a dolphin made friends. The next Disney Pixar movie, anyone?