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News articles on whales
Mongabay.com news articles on whales in blog format. Updated regularly.
Whale skeleton reveals species unknown to science
(09/22/2009) The importance of a whale to the oceanic ecosystem does not end with its life. After dying, a whale's body sinks to the bottom of the ocean and becomes food for many species, some of whom specialize on feeding on these corpses.
Slaughter of dolphins and whales begins in cove made famous by film
(09/09/2009) Japan Probe reports that the annual dolphin slaughter by fishermen in the Japanese town of Taiji has begun. The hunt was delayed by the presence of Japanese and foreign press in the cove during the first days when the hunt was supposed to begin.
Oil spill off Australia potential 'disaster' for marine wildlife
(08/30/2009) Oil is leaking from an offshore drilling rig in the Timor Sea near Australia's Northwest coast. Authorities say it will be weeks before the leak is plugged: they are awaiting the arrival of a drilling rig from Singapore to plug the leak.
Blue whales return to migration pattern used before commercial whaling
(05/13/2009) The blue whale may be returning to a migration route that it abandoned during commercial whaling. Researchers have discovered whales migrating from California to the coastlines of British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska for the first time since 1965. Fifteen different cases of whales have been recorded in the north Pacific; four of the whales were individuals who had been viewed off the coast of California, as well.
Study confirms that sonar can cause deafness in dolphins
(04/08/2009) A new study in Biology Lettersconfirms what marine biologists have long suspected: loud sonar can cause temporary deafness in dolphins, possibly explaining some mass strandings. The study, using a captive dolphin in a controlled experiment, found that sonar at high prolonged levels could even lead to slight behavioral changes.
Marine Protected Areas too small for whales and dolphins
(04/07/2009) Current Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are too small to adequately serve whales and dolphins according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). The international organization is calling for a global network of MPAs to save the ocean's most beloved inhabitants. "A worldwide effort must be made urgently to identify and define whale and dolphin critical habitats and hot spots,” said WDCS Research Fellow, Erich Hoyt.
Infant blue whale filmed underwater
(03/06/2009) Off the waters of Costa Rica in January 2008 scientists and photographers with National Geographic filmed an infant blue whale swimming near its mother. They believe this is the first time a baby blue whale has been filmed underwater.
Iceland reaffirms whaling targets for 2009
(02/19/2009) Iceland's interim government will allow whaling to continue through 2009 but left in question whether it would be permitted in the future, reports Reuters.
Fishermen - not whales as claimed by Japan - are the cause of fisheries depletion
(02/12/2009) Fishermen calling for a resumption of whaling to restore commercial fish stocks are taking the wrong approach, argue researchers writing in the journal Science. Analyzing data on fish catch and whale abundance off the coast of northwestern Africa and the Caribbean, Leah R. Gerber and colleagues show that fishermen remove far more fish than whales consume, undermining the agreement by whaling nations that whales are driving depletion of fisheries.
Iceland raises whale killing quota to 150 fin whales, 100 minkes per year
(01/28/2009) The outgoing administration in Iceland has substantially raised the country's whaling quota, reports the BBC.
A new reason to ban whaling: your health
(11/28/2008) Health officials have recommended a ban on the eating of pilot whales, a traditional food source, in the Faroe Islands, reports New Scientist. The build-up of toxins — which bioaccumulate up the food chain as predators feed on tainted organisms — have rendered whale meat harmful to humans.
Supreme Court lifts ban on sonar testing, whales lose
(11/12/2008) A Supreme Court decision will allow the Navy to continue its of sonar in training exercises off the coast of California, a defeat for environmental groups who say sonar is harmful to whales, reports the Associated Press.
Rainforest biodiversity at risk from global warming
(10/09/2008) Climbing temperatures may doom many tropical species to extinction if they are unable to migrate to higher elevations or cooler latitudes, report researchers writing in Science.
Argentina bans fishing, trawling in eco-rich area
(10/09/2008) The government of Argentina has banned commercial fishing along Burdwood Bank, an 1,800 square kilometer (694 square mile) submerged island off its southern coast, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Whaling Commission issues media blackout on discussions to lift whale killing ban
(09/11/2008) The survival of whales is perhaps the most successful conservation story of the 20th century. Since a moratorium on commercial hunting, some whale species have staged dramatic recoveries. In May it was announced that the humpback whale population has climbed from 1,500 to 20,000 individuals, resulting in it being "downlisted" from vulnerable to least concern, according to the IUCN's Red List. Others, like the blue whale, appear to have stable populations but recovery remains slow.
Whale meat is back on the menu in Iceland
(09/02/2008) Whale meat is back at restaurants and food markets in Iceland, reports the WALL STREET JOURNAL.
The extinction of the baiji a 'wake-up call' to conserve vaquita and other cetaceans
(08/25/2008) In December of 2006 an expedition spent six weeks surveying the Yangtze River in China for one of the world's rarest cetaceans, the baiji. Also known as 'The Goddess of the Yangtze' the shy river-dolphin had roamed the river for millions of years locating fish with echolocation. The survey came back empty-handed without a spotting a single dolphin. Dr. Jay Barlow, a member of the surveying team, described his emotions on the expedition's findings in an interview with Mongabay.com: "I was stunned. I knew the species was in trouble, but I did not think they were already gone. We really had not seen the extinction of a large mammal species in 50 years, so we grew complacent."
The long-ignored ocean emergency and what can be done to address it
(08/18/2008) This year has been full of bad news regarding marine ecosystems: one-third of coral species threatened with extinction, dead-zones spread to 415 sites, half of U.S. reefs in fair or bad condition, increase in ocean acidification, tuna and shark populations collapsing, and only four percent of ocean considered pristine. Jeremy Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of California, San Diego, synthesizes such reports and others into a new paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that boldly lays out the scope of the oceanic emergency and what urgently needs to be done.
The end of migrations: wildlife's greatest spectacle is critically endangered
(07/28/2008) If we could turn back the clock about 200 years, one could watch as millions of whales swam along their migration routes. Around 150 years ago, one could witness bison filling the vast America prairie or a billion passenger pigeons blotting out the sky for days. Only a few decades back and a million saiga antelope could be seen crossing the plains of Asia.
Whale biomimicry inspires better wind turbines
(07/07/2008) By studying and mimicking the characteristics of the flippers, fins and tails of whales and dolphins, engineers have devised more a efficient way to generate wind power, reports a researcher presenting at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Meeting in Marseille, France.
Humpback whale population is recovering
(05/21/2008) The number of humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean has increased substantially since international and federal protections were put into place in the 1960s and 70s, according to a new study involving more than 400 whale researchers throughout the Pacific region.
The Arctic's most threatened marine mammals due to climate change
(04/25/2008) A recent study has measured the sensitivity to Arctic marine mammals to climate change. The study found that the three species most vulnerable to climate change are the hooded seal, the polar bear, and the narwhal: the common thread between these species being the loss of sea ice.
Japan cancels plan to kill 50 humpback whales
(12/21/2007) Japan has canceled highly controversial plans to kill 50 humpback whales for purported "scietific purposes" (the meat is sold in fish markets) after widespread condemnation from environmentalists and governments. .
Evolution of whales challenged
(12/19/2007) Modern whales appear to have evolved from a raccoon-sized creature with the body of a small deer, according to scientists writing in the journal Nature. The results challenge the theory that cetaceans are descended from even-toed ungulates (artiodactyls) like hippos, as previous molecular analysis has suggested.
Only 150 vaquita remain
(11/19/2007) Only 150 individual vaquita, the world's smallest cetacean, remain, according to a new study published in conservation Biology. The species has been decimated as accidental bycatch in fishing nets in its Gulf of California habitat. Researchers--who say there may be only a two-year window to save the species from extinction--have launched a last-ditch conservation effort.
Whale stranded 1,000 miles up the Amazon river
(11/17/2007) An 18-foot minke whale was found beached on a sandbar 1,000 miles up a tributary of the Amazon river, reported Globo television and the Associated Press.
Apology for Whale Shooting given by Tribe
(09/13/2007) The ninth of September saw a gray whale shot and killed by members of the Makah Tribe, off the coast of the Washington Coast, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Gray whale populations a fraction of historic level
(09/10/2007) The current population of gray whales is one-third to one-fifth of the number found in the Pacific before industrial whaling began in the 19th century, reports a new study based on genetic analysis.
Squid chasing drove evolution of whale sonar
(09/06/2007) A University of California at Berkeley study argues that dolphins and other toothed whales developed sonar to chase schools of squid swimming near the ocean surface at night.
Iceland halts whaling
(08/24/2007) With stagnant demand for whale meat nearly a year after ending its ban on commercial whaling, Iceland said it would not issue new whale-hunting quotas until it gets an export license from Japan, reports Reuters.
U.S. court blocks sonar testing to protect whales
(08/07/2007) A U.S. federal court blocked the Navy from using a type of sonar that environmentalists say pose a threat to whales off the coast of California. The judge noted that the Navy's own analyses concluded that the Southern California exercises "will cause widespread harm to nearly thirty species of marine mammals, including five species of endangered whales, and may cause permanent injury and death" and characterized the Navy's proposed mitigation measures as "woefully inadequate and ineffectual."
How to save the world's oceans from overfishing
(07/08/2007) Global fishing stocks are in trouble. After expanding from 18 millions tons in 1950 to around 94 million tons in 2000, annual world fish catch has leveled off and may even be declining. Scientists estimate that the number of large predatory fish in the oceans has fallen by 90 percent since the 1950s, while about one-quarter of the world's fisheries are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. Despite these dire trends, the situation is changing. Today some of the world's largest environmental groups are focused on addressing the health of marine life and oceans, while sustainable fisheries management is at the top of the agenda for intergovenmental bodies. At the forefront of these efforts is Mike Sutton, director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's conservation program: the Center for the Future of the Oceans. The aquarium, which has long been recognized as one of the world's most important marine research facilities, is pioneering new strategies for protecting the planet's oceans. Sutton says the approach has four parts: establishing new marine protected areas, pushing for ocean policy reform, promoting sustainable seafood, and protecting wildlife and marine ecosystems.
Harpoon proves whale is 115-130 years old
(06/12/2007) A 19th-century weapon found in the neck of a 50-ton bowhead whale caught off Alaska shows that cetaceans can live more than 100 years, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Japan and Iceland defeated on pro-whaling initiative
(06/07/2007) Japan and Iceland failed in their latest attempts to lift regulations protecting whales, reports the Whale and Dolphin conservation Society. Measures introduced at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in the Hague were defeated 55 (against) to 28 (for) with 13 abstentions Thursday.
South Korea fishermen cheat on whale killing
(05/09/2007) Fishermen in South Korea are killing far more whales than they claim, reports an article in New Scientist Magazine. DNA fingerprinting of whale meat purchased in local markets suggests that South Korea caught 827 minke whales between 1999 and 2003, well above the 458 they reported.
Japan will kill 50 humpbacks
(04/26/2007) Humpback whale populations are rebounding but concerns are rising over Japan's plans to kill 50 humpback whales for "scientific" research, reports a paper published in the latest issue of Science.
Jumbo squid and sperm whales tagged
(03/08/2007) Scientists have simulatenously tagged sperm whales and jumbo squid off Mexico's Pacific coast, allowing them to be tracked by satellite even as they dive to depths exceeding 3000 feet. Details of the effort are published in in the March 12 edition of the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series (MEPS).
China will continue search for 'extinct' baiji river dolphin
(12/18/2006) Chinese state media reports that scientists will continue to search for the baiji dolphin even after a 38-day search failed to produce any evidence of its existence in the Yangtze River.
The Vaquita, the world's smallest cetacean, dives toward extinction
(12/10/2006) Accidental death in fishing nets is driving the world's smallest cetacean, the Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), towards extinction, according to a new study published in the current issue of Mammal Review, the official scientific periodical of the Mammal Society.
How many whales are enough?
(11/30/2006) Iceland's decision to resume hunting endangered fin whales raises an important question: how many whales are enough to sustain a population? While conservionists will debate over the actual number using varying models and population studies, a new paper published in the journal Bioscience attempts to establish a new system for setting population targets for threatened species.
Whales share human brain cells
(11/27/2006) Whales share brain cells with humans according to a new study published online November 27, 2006 in The Anatomical Record, the official journal of the American Association of Anatomists. The research suggests that "certain cetaceans and hominids may have evolved side by side."
Grey whales missing from traditional feeding grounds
(10/23/2006) Researchers found few grey whales in their traditional feeding grounds in the North Pacific last summer according to a scientist at the University of Bath. Dr. William Megill, a professor of mechanical engineering with special interest in biomimetics at the University of Bath, said that the absence of the 17,000 grey whales from traditional summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific could be cause for concern, despite the species' recent removal from the endangered species list.
Ancient blue whale was a shark killer
(08/22/2006) A 25-million-year-old whale fossil from southeastern Australia suggests a curious origin for baleen whales. Presented at the at the Melbourne Museum last week, the fossil shows that earliest baleen whales were small, toothed and highly predatory creatures with enormous eyes -- virtually the opposite of the baleen whales we know today. These, like the blue whale and the humpback are gentle, toothless giants that feed on krill and other tiny organism.
Norwegian killer whales most toxic mammals in Arctic
(12/12/2005) Initial scientific results show Norwegian killer whales are the most toxic mammals in the Arctic, says WWF, the global conservation organization. Previous research awarded this dubious honour to the polar bear, but a new study shows that killer whales have even higher levels of PCBs, pesticides and a brominated flame retardant.
Underwater sound pollution threat to marine life says new report
(11/21/2005) New evidence shows that the rising level of intense underwater sound produced by oil and gas exploration, military sonar and other manmade sources poses a significant long-term threat to whales, dolphins, fish and other marine species, according to a report published today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Whale uses fish as bait to catch seagulls then shares strategy with fellow orcas
(09/07/2005) An enterprising young killer whale at Marineland has figured out how to use fish as bait to catch seagulls -- and shared his strategy with his fellow whales.
Humpback whale tracked migrating between ocean basins
(08/18/2005) For the first time ever, a genetic study has followed a single humpback whale from one ocean basin to another, adding to traditional notions of the migratory patterns of these majestic marine mammals in the process, according to researchers from the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS), the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), and New York University.
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