Friday, November 07, 2008

American Cetacean Society Conference: November 13-16, 2008 in Monterey, CA (registration is still open!)

The American Cetacean Society (ACS) will hold their 11th international conference in Monterey, CA on November 13-16. This is shaping up to be another remarkable conference and the conference program looks amazing.

Sessions will take place all day Saturday and Sunday and will include scientific discussions, as well as discussions about whaling, human/whale interaction, the environment and in-depth reviews related to specific whale species.

There's going to be a banquet on Saturday evening, as well as a photo contest, poster session, art show, and auction. And on Monday, there will be a free symposium on gray whales if you are lucky enough to be able to stay beyond the weekend. And if you can make it out before the weekend, don't forget to sign up for Friday's whale watch in Monterey Bay! There's bound to be some interesting marine wildlife around. Registration information can be found
here. Online registration ends November 10th, but after that date, you can still register at the door.

While you're at it, consider becoming a member of ACS. I'm a proud member and have learned a lot about cetaceans by being part of the organization. In addition to educational benefits, you'll also be helping the great cause of cetacean and environmental conservation.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Whale Wars" Television Series to Premiere on Animal Planet
This Friday, November 7, Animal Planet will debut a new 7-part weekly television series called "Whale Wars." It will follow the mission of Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as they work aggressively to help stop whaling, poaching, shark-finning and habitat destruction. It's impressive that Animal Planet is devoting so much time to this important topic.
If anyone has ever been lucky enough to see a whale in the wild, it's hard to imagine that any human being would want to intentionally kill these magnificent creatures. In particular, Japan, Norway, and Iceland are still aggressively killing whales with no regard for the International Whaling Commission's guidelines.

The fact that Japan, Norway, and Iceland have such little respect for the whales and the marine ecosystem makes us seriously question whether we should be spending any money on the products or tourism of these countries. Whaling has no place in today's society--it's a brutal, unnecessary, and inhumane practice. Honestly, what is the point? Whales are in desperate need of our help. Many species are endangered as a result of whaling and their habitats are under constant threat.

Thanks to Animal Planet for taking time to educate us on this important topic.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Coastal Cleanup Day at Malibu Lagoon in Malibu, CA
This past Saturday, September 20 was International Coastal Cleanup Day, which is sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy. Here are a few photos of the cleanup efforts at the Malibu Lagoon in Malibu, CA.

On my trash scorecard, note that 53 food wrappers/containers were found. This did not even include the countless small pieces of styrofoam that were likely once a cup, food container, etc. It's awful for these things to be
laying out in the open so close to bird and marine life. The animals often ingest the waste and cannot digest it and become victim to an untimely death.

With very little effort, I also found 53 cigarette butts. In addition to the fact that animals ingest cigarette butts, it's awful that so many people discard their smokes in an area that's so full of dry brush and plants. Southern California (and many other areas) are very susceptible to fire and if you recall, one of last year's fires in Malibu was thought to have been started by a cigarette that was thrown out of a car window.
Hundreds of pounds of trash was collected:

Please do your part to keep beautiful places like the Malibu Lagoon clean and free of trash. If you see trash around any coastal area, please take a moment to pick it up and help keep our environment clean.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

International Coastal Cleanup Day is this Saturday, September 20, 2008
If you have a little time to volunteer this weekend, you may want to consider helping out with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup Day efforts. It's a great way to help the environment and to help countless forms of wildlife that depend on coastal or wetland habitats. You don't need to live near the ocean. . . cleanup efforts will be underway in many inland areas as well. You can learn more by clicking the Coastal Cleanup Day image below and remember to help keep your environment clean all year around. If you see trash laying around outside, make an effort to pick it up, especially if it's in a coastal area.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Minke Whale Shows Partial Tail Fluke
While looking for Blue whales in the Santa Barbara Channel this past weekend, we came across what appeared to be a young Minke whale who was interacting with a California sea lion. It was interesting behavior and before one of its dives it rolled on its side and then showed us a partial tail fluke--pretty unusual behavior for a Minke whale. Here's a video clip of the action:

We also spotted at least 10 Blue whales and witnessed a team of scientists tagging the Blue whales with transmitters to monitor location. Note the small yellow/white
tag on top of this Blue whale:

And here are the scientists from Oregon State University in action:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Risso's Dolphins in Santa Barbara Channel
A pod of about 50 Risso's dolphins (Grampus griseus) were active in the Santa Barbara Channel yesterday. They seemed content to casually hang around our boat for a while and there was also a small group of Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) traveling along with them. At first glance, one of the Risso's appeared to have a dolphin slipstreaming alongside her, but as it turns out, it was a Risso's calf that was probably close to being a newborn. Here are a few

Mother and c
alf (calf is on left, very small):

Dorsal fin of a Risso's dolphin (this scarring is the result of the teeth of other Risso's; all of the Risso's have this type of scarring):

And some other marine mam
mals spotted along the way--a California sea lion who was bowriding right along with a large pod of common dolphins:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sharks Truly Need Our Help
My friend Sean hosted a screening of the documentary film "Sharkwater" last night and I highly recommend this film to everyone. Humans are decimating the shark population in pursuit of fins to make shark-fin soup. This industry is quickly destroying the entire balance of the ecosystem across our world's oceans.


Here's some data from both Sean & the movie:

- 90% of the world's shark population has been decimated over the past 50 or so years. Keep in mind that these animals have survived four major extinctions and they pre-date the dinosaurs.

- 100 million sharks are killed annually to meet the demand of the shark-finning industry.

- The majority of sharks are killed by a horrific practice called "shark finning" in which live sharks are pulled aboard a boat to have their fins cut off and then thrown back in the water to sink and die a very slow, painful death. Since there is not much room on boats, there is more space if they discard the body.

- Sharks are often caught by the "long-line" fishing practice, where fishing lines with thousands of hooks are dropped into the ocean, catching and killing countless other species such as sea turtles, sailfish, sea lions, and many other species of fish in the process. This by-catch is almost always discarded.

- Shark fins are primarily used as an ingredient in shark-fin soup, a traditional meal in Asia that was at one time available only to royalty and is often served at weddings or other special occasions. If you ever encounter shark-fin soup, please do not order it or eat it! Doing so will only further the demand for this industry. [My own recommendation is to boycott any restaurant that is serving it and to help educate the management about the troubles of this industry.]

- Sharks reproduce very slowly, some species only have two offspring every two years. Sharks cannot reproduce fast enough to keep up with the current rate of human consumption.

- 110 species of sharks are currently listed by the IUCN as a species under serious threat.

- At the rate humans are killing sharks, experts estimate that within 10 years, most species of sharks will be lost.

The "Sharkwater" documentary is available for purchase at Amazon or at and can also be rented on Netflix. Also check out some of Sean's cool underwater pictures at flickr.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

If You Encounter a Stranded Marine Mammal . . .
The following tips were provided in the 2008 Vol. 37, Number 1 issue of the Journal Of the American Cetacean Society: "Whalewatcher" (and were adapted from The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito, CA). If you ever happen to encounter a beached or stranded animal, please observe the following precautions:

1. Don't touch, don't pick up, and don't feed the animal. Don't return the animal to the water. Seals and sea lions temporarily "haul out" on land to rest, and mothers may briefly leave their pups while at sea. A beached whale or dolphin should be reported immediately.

2. Observe the animal from a distance of at least 50 feet. Keep people and dogs away.

3. Note the animal's physical characteristics to help inform the response agency.

4. Note the animal's condition. Is it weak? Is it underweight? Are there any open wounds?

5. Note whether the animal has any identification tags or markings.

6. Determine exact location of the animal, note landmarks, and be prepared to provide accurate directions.

7. Call the appropriate response agency. To find the phone number for the authorized stranding network organization in your area, visit the NOAA Fisheries Web site.
Polar Bears Listed as Threatened Species
On May 15, 2008, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service organization pronounced the polar bear a "Threatened Species" under the Endangered Species Act. The loss of icy polar habitat that the polar bears face as a result of melting sea ice poses a severe problem for them. With less ice, polar bears face a much tougher time finding food and some polar bears even end up drowning because the distance between ice floes is too far for to swim. The categorization of "threatened" means that polar bears are at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future. While it's very sad that things have reached the point of a "Threatened" classification, hopefully, this classification will also help focus needed resources on preserving the polar bears' pristine environment before it's truly too late for them. Here's a link to the U.S. Department of the Interior's press release on the topic and a link to polar bear information and videos from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ten Ways to Help Save the Ocean
Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific suggests following these 10 guidelines to help protect our oceans and conserve resources:
1. Eat sustainable seafood. Learn about the status of current species on NOAA's Fishwatch site.
2. Bring your own coffee mug or water bottle. Use fewer disposable items.
3. Carpool or use public transportation.
4. Bring your own bag. Carry reusable cloth bags when you g
o shopping. Plastic bags often end up in the ocean and post a risk to marine life.
5. Recycle as much as possible.
6. Say no to junk mail. Opt out of junk mail by visiting the Direct Marketing Association's web site.
7. Sign up to pay bills online to help eliminate paper waste and save money on stamps.
8. Protect our waterways. Watch what you wash into storm drains and do not overfertilize your lawn.
9. Choose native plants.

10. Explore the natural world! Help educate children, friends, and family members about the environment and conservation.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Marine Wildlife Viewing Guidelines
As you venture out to enjoy some time at the shoreline, please keep these viewing guidelines in mind if you encounter any wildlife. The following list is from NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries Ocean Etiquette page (excerpts below were also taken from the print publication "National Marine Sanctuaries of the West Coast"):

1. Learn before you go. Learn more about the wildlife you may encounter before your visit.
2. Keep your distance. Getting too close to animals can be harmful both to them and to you.
3. Hands off. Not only is it often illegal touch protected species, it can also injure either you or the animal.
4. Do not feed or attract marine wildlife. Feeding or attempting to attract wildlife may harm animals by causing sickness, death and habituation to people.
5. Never chase or harass wildlife. Never surround, trap or separate animals.
6. Stay away from wildlife that appears abandoned or sick. Animals that appear sick may not be. They may just be resting or awaiting the return of a parent. If you think an animal is sick or injured, contact the local authorities.
7. Wildlife and pets don't mix. Keep pets leashed and away from marine wildlife.
8. Lend a hand with trash removal. Carry a trash bag with you and pick up litter. Garbage and fishing debris pose significant threats to marine wildlife.
9. Help others become responsible wildlife watchers and tour operators. Lead by example and support businesses that follow proper guidelines.