Tag Archives: Marine Animals

19,000 Sea Turtle Eggs Seized in Anti-Smuggling Operation

sea turtle egg
“El nacimiento.” A sea turtle egg. Photo source: ©©Emmanuel Frezzotti


Police seized 19,000 sea turtle eggs off the coast of Malaysia in a special operation to hobble a major smuggling syndicate…

Read Full Article, National Geographic (07-24-2016)

Ban turtle eggs trade in Malaysia: WWF, PhysOrg (08-03-2011)
WWF urged Malaysia to impose a national ban on the trade and consumption of turtle eggs to ensure the survival of the marine creatures.Turtles once arrived in their thousands to lay eggs on Malaysian beaches but are now increasingly rare due to poaching and coastal development…

Stealing Turtle Eggs Got People Shot, But The Thievery Continues, National Geographic (12-08-2015)

Sea Turtle Eggs Have Turned Beach into a Battleground, ABC News (11-08-2015)

Sea Turtle Egg Poaching Legalized in Costa Rica: The Debate, Coastal Care (07-29-2011)

How Do Marine Turtles Return To The Same Beach To Lay Their Eggs? Science Daily (12-09-2010)

After Steep Decline, Signs of Hope for World’s Sea Turtles; Yale E360 (12-12-2014)
Nearly all sea turtle species have been classified as endangered, with precipitous declines in many populations in recent decades. But new protections are demonstrating that dramatic recovery for these remarkable reptiles is possible…

More than 160 years of Walrus Haulout Observations Reported by Russians and Americans Published as Database

Walrus – Odobenus rosmarus divergens – hauled out on Bering Sea ice. Captions and Photo source: NOAA


The Pacific Walrus Coastal Haulout Database, based on generations of observations shared by Russians and Americans over more than 160 years, is now available to assist planning efforts of wildlife managers, mariners, industry and others operating in the Arctic.

The database shows where walrus haulouts may be found. This information is vital to reduce the risk of mortality events from human-caused disturbance or pollution.

“It’s great to see this information in a consistent format, on a user-friendly platform, and up to date,” said James MacCracken, walrus program supervisor at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This should be very useful to anyone planning activities that may occur near a haulout and as well as the USFWS’s assessment of those activities.”

Walruses are large marine predators that must rest out of water on sea ice or the coast between feedings along the shallow arctic sea floor. Female Pacific walruses and their calves in particular traditionally spend summers far from shore. However in recent years, loss of summer sea ice over the continental shelf has forced many walruses to travel to the Arctic coasts of the U.S. and Russia where they haul-out on shore to rest. When hauling out on the coast, they often gather in large numbers and use specific locations, termed haulouts, where they may be vulnerable to disturbance and pollution events.

To produce the database, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their Russian counterparts at the Russian Academy of Sciences and Chukot-TINRO, combed through published reports, state records, as well as observations from coastal residents, aviators and scientists.

“This database reveals the full geographic context of all places where Pacific walruses have been observed repeatedly resting on shore or in large numbers,” said Anthony Fischbach, wildlife biologist with the USGS. “The database is the result of generations of Russians and Americans, who openly shared their wildlife observations.”

The data can be used in GIS applications, such as Google Earth, or worked with in NOAA’s Arctic Environmental Response Management Application.

Each haulout entry in the database provides a narrative describing the geography and history of reported use with citations to reports and personal communications. The publication of these data are possible because of the long-standing good working relationship that scientists have across the Bering Strait dating back to the first joint surveys in 1975.

A summary report of this database provides an overview of the distribution patterns of the Pacific walrus haulouts.

The walrus research reflects a large interagency and international effort including USGS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Russian Academy of Sciences and Chukot-TINRO. USGS is also coordinating with the US Coast Guard, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, Eskimo Walrus Commission, North Slope Borough, affected National Wildlife Refuges, the NPS Bering Straits Land Bridge and the State Department.

Map showing Pacific walrus coastal haulout locations reported in the past four decades (1980s– 2010s), with a maximum aggregation size of greater than or equal to 1,000 walruses.

Original Article and Learn More, USGS (07-18-2016)

Meet the Very Venomous Portuguese Man-of-War

The Portuguese Man O’ War is named for its air bladder, which looks similar to the sails of the Portuguese fighting ship (Man of war) Caravela redonda (an armed 4-sail caravel), of the 14th and 15th centuries. Photo source: ©© Martha Rivero


They look like a discarded balloon. They’re actually a bubble full of agony.

You’ll want the skinny on these dangerous beauties if you encounter one on your summer beach day…

Read Full Article, National Geographic

Sonic Sea, Film Documentary

WATCH: Sonic Sea, Documentary Trailer (2016)
“This is the story that changed forever the way we understand our impact on the ocean — and shows what we can do to quiet this deadly noise.”—NRDC

Excerpts, from NRDC;

“Oceans are a sonic symphony. Sound is essential to the survival and prosperity of marine life. But man-made ocean noise is threatening this fragile world.

Sonic Sea is about protecting life in our waters from the destructive effects of oceanic noise pollution.”

“It was a typical March morning for whale watching in the Bahamas — mild, a little humid, and not a hint of the elusive beaked whales that have made their home in the Grand Bahama Canyon for the past 30 million years.

But look out far enough and you might have glimpsed the fleet of U.S. Navy destroyers running training exercises in the canyon, blasting deep-sea sonar at decibel levels equivalent to a jetfighter.

And if you stuck around a few hours, you’d have finally seen these majestic whales — 17 of them, stranding themselves on the beach, bleeding from their ears and brains, desperately trying to escape the deadly noise…”

Sonic Sea is a 60-minute documentary about the impact of industrial and military ocean noise on whales and other marine life. It tells the story of a former U.S. Navy officer who solved a tragic mystery and changed forever the way we understand our impact on the ocean. TV Premiere May 19th, 2016.

The film is narrated by Rachel McAdams and features Sting, in addition to the renowned ocean experts Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Paul Spong, Dr. Christopher Clark and Jean-Michel Cousteau.

Sonic Sea was produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Imaginary Forces in association with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Diamond Docs.

Watch the trailer for Sonic Sea (2016), the NRDC documentary that tells the inside story of this day of infamy — then see what happened next when the film premieres Discovery Channel this Thursday May 19th, 2016


The television premiere of Sonic Sea — the powerful documentary narrated by Oscar-nominated actress Rachel McAdams that exposes how relentless human-made ocean noise is devastating marine mammals, and charts a path toward solving this avoidable environmental tragedy.


This Thursday, May 19, on the Discovery Channel

In the darkness of the sea, whales and other marine life depend on sound to mate, find food — in short, to survive. But a cacophony of sonic “bombs” unleashed by oil prospectors, freight ships and military sonar is tearing their symphony of life apart.

The first step to solving a problem is sounding the alarm as far and wide as possible — and that starts with this film.—NRDC

Learn More, NRDC

Sonic Sea — Trailer, By NRDC; Uploaded on Youtube February 2016

More on Ocean noise pollution:

Accoustic Pollution and Marine Mammals, Nature
In the Canary Islands, 14 beaked whales washed ashore bleeding from the ears. All eventually died. A post-mortem examination revealed that the whales showed signs of decompression sickness (what scuba divers call “the bends”). Decompression sickness can occur when a mammal swims to the ocean’s surface too quickly, and the change in pressure produces lethal nitrogen gas bubbles that clog its blood vessels. Evidence of acute decompression sickness indicates unusual behavior. Over the past 40 years, cumulative research across the globe has revealed a coincidence between naval sonar testing events and acute decompression sickness in beached marine mammals…

Whales Benefit From Action On Ocean Noise, BBC News (03-04-2013)

A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to See, The New York Times (12-15-2012)

Navy study: Sonar, Blasts Might Hurt More Sea Life (05-14-2012)

Accoustic Pollution and Naval Sonar testing, Discover Magazine (01-26-2012)

Ship noise in coastal habitats could interfere with orca’s communication, Science Daily (02-03-2016)

Whales Benefit From Action On Ocean Noise, BBC News (03-04-2013)

A Silent Victory For Marine Mammals, On Earth Magazine (04-03-2015)
A federal judge stands up to the noisy navy for the sake of marine mammals…

Worldwide Ship Traffic Up 300 Percent Since 1992, AGU (11-29-2014)
Maritime traffic on the world’s oceans has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, likely causing more water, air and noise pollution on the open seas, according to a new study quantifying global ship traffic…

Super-sized ships: How big can they get? Independent (10-21-2014)
Despite the physical limits and risks, ships of more than 450m are anticipated within the next five years…

“FREIGHTENED – The Real Price of Shipping,” a movie by multi award-winning filmmaker Denis Delestrac-©-2016; (03-31-2016)
90% of the goods we consume in the West are manufactured in far-off lands and brought to us by ship. The cargo shipping industry is a key player in world economy and forms the basis of our very model of modern civilisation; without it, it would be impossible to fulfil the ever-increasing demands of our societies. Yet the functioning and regulations of this business remain largely obscure to many, and its hidden costs affect us all. Due to their size, freight ships no longer fit in traditional city harbours; they have moved out of the public’s eye, behind barriers and check points…

Rare Pink Dolphins Hang On in Urban Harbor, Video

Hong Kong. Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care


Pink dolphins have long lived in the urban waters around the islands and in the harbor of Hong Kong, where they have earned a symbolic place in the city’s history and culture. However, there is rising concern among scientists that these rare dolphins will disappear from the bustling waters unless more is done to preserve them…

Watch Video And Read Full Article, National Geographic

Hong Kong’s Iconic Pink Dolphins in Danger of Extinction, ABC News (09-14-2015)
The dolphin population in Hong Kong is declining because of five main factors: habitat loss from coastal development, water pollution, underwater noise pollution, vessel collision and overfishing…

US ceases efforts to end global trade of polar bear parts

Photo source: ©© Jidanchaomian


The US government has quietly dropped its campaign for an international ban in the trade of polar bear parts, which would have given the practice the same outlaw status as the elephant ivory market…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK

End The Global Trafficking In Polar Bear Products! NRDC (12-10-2012)
Polar bears are currently listed under CITES under Appendix II, as a species that is not necessarily now threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled. With the polar bear sliding toward extinction, we must win a worldwide ban on the killing of polar bears for profit. Please Help End The Global Trafficking In Polar Bears: A NRDC Campaign.

Gulf of Mexico perinatal dolphin deaths likely result of oil exposure

Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care


The increased number of stranded stillborn and juvenile dolphins found in the Gulf of Mexico from 2010 to 2013 was likely caused by chronic illnesses in mothers who were exposed to oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, scientists said today.

The paper, published in the journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, is part of an effort to explain the unusual mortality event in the Gulf involving bottlenose dolphins, between early 2010 and continuing into 2014. The investigations into both the fetal dolphin deaths, and the overall effects of the oil spill, are continuing. The long-term effects of the spill on dolphin reproduction are still unknown.

“Our new findings add to the mounting evidence from peer-reviewed studies that exposure to petroleum compounds following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill severely harmed the reproductive health of dolphins living in the oil spill footprint in the northern Gulf of Mexico,” said Dr. Teri Rowles, veterinarian, co-author on the study, and head of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, which is charged with determining the causes of these events.

“In contrast to control populations, we found that Gulf of Mexico bottlenose dolphins were particularly susceptible to late term pregnancy failures, signs of fetal distress and development of in utero infections including brucellosis,” said Dr. Kathleen Colegrove, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and veterinary pathology professor at the University of Illinois Chicago-based Zoological Pathology Programoffsite link.

A stranded dolphin in March 2013. Young bottlenose dolphins have been dying in areas affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)

Higher numbers in spill zone

Scientists saw higher numbers of stranded stillborn and juvenile dolphins in the spill zone in 2011 than in other years, particularly in Mississippi and Alabama. “The young dolphins, which died in the womb or shortly after birth, were significantly smaller than those that stranded during previous years and in other geographic locations,” said Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, study co-author and veterinary epidemiologist from the National Marine Mammal Foundationoffsite link.

Bottlenose dolphins are pregnant for about 380 days, so stillborn and juvenile dolphins found in the early months of 2011 could have been exposed in the womb to petroleum products released the previous year. “Pregnant dolphins losing fetuses in 2011 would have been in the earlier stages of pregnancy in 2010 during the oil spill,” said Colegrove.

The researchers report that 88 percent of the stillborn and juvenile dolphins found in the spill zone had abnormal lungs, including partially or completely collapsed lungs. That and their small size suggest that they died in the womb or very soon after birth – before their lungs had a chance to fully inflate. Only 15 percent of stillborn and juvenile dolphins found in areas unaffected by the spill had this lung abnormality, the researchers said.

Severe lung and gland damage

A previous study from lead authors Venn-Watson and Colegrove revealed that non-perinatal bottlenose dolphins that stranded in the spill zone after the spill were much more likely than other stranded dolphins to have severe lung and adrenal gland damage “consistent with petroleum product exposure.”

The study team included researchers from the University of Illinois; National Marine Mammal Foundation; NOAA; the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and University of South Alabama; the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi; the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; Animal Health Center in British Columbia; the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida; the University of Georgia; and the University of North Carolina.

This study was conducted in conjunction with the Natural Resource Damage Assessment for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as well as the investigation into the northern Gulf of Mexico unusual mortality event. These results are included in the injury assessment documented in the Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan. The marine mammal findings are found between pages 4-584 and 4-647. The restoration types laid out in the plan will address injuries to dolphins due to the oil spill.

Original Article And Learn More, NOAA

5 Years after Deepwater Horizon, Wildlife Still Struggling Dolphins Dying in High Numbers; Sea Turtles Failing to Nest, Science Daily (03-31-2015)

BP’s Oiled Animals: Where Are They Now? MNN (04-18-2013)
Across the northern Gulf of Mexico, which absorbed 200 million gallons of crude oil in 2010, the disaster still isn’t over. This Earth Day marks its third anniversary, highlighting a gradual shift from in-your-face emergency to subtle, behind-the-scenes villain…

Conservation efforts for Florida, Pacific coast green sea turtles working, agencies say

Green sea turtle hatchling. Photo source: NOAA.


Two federal agencies issued, on April 5, a final rule that will revise the listing for green sea turtles under the Endangered Species Act, including reclassifying turtles originating from two breeding populations from endangered to threatened status due to successful conservation efforts.

In addition, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will divide the turtles globally into 11 distinct populations segments, allowing for tailored conservation approaches for each population. Three of the segments will be reclassified as endangered, and the rest as threatened. Green sea turtles have been listed as a threatened species, with the exception of the endangered breeding populations, since 1978.

“Successful conservation and management efforts developed in Florida and along the Pacific coast of Mexico are a roadmap for further recovery strategies of green turtle populations around the world,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “Identifying distinct population segments across the green sea turtle’s range provides flexibility for managers to address specific challenges facing individual populations with a tailored approach. Ultimately, this will help us protect and conserve green sea turtles more efficiently and effectively, so that we can achieve our goal of recovering the species.”

Years of coordinated conservation efforts, including protection of nesting beaches, reduction of bycatch in fisheries, and prohibitions on the direct harvest of sea turtles, have led to increasing numbers of turtles nesting in Florida and along the Pacific coast of Mexico. NOAA Fisheries and the Fish and Wildlife Service have reclassified the status of the two segments that include those breeding populations as threatened rather than endangered.

“While threats remain for green sea turtles globally, the reclassification of green sea turtles in Florida and Mexico shows how ESA-inspired partnerships between the federal agencies, states, NGOs and even countries is making a real difference for some of our planet’s most imperiled species,” said Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe.

The agencies reviewed the green sea turtle’s global status to determine the new classifications, taking into account advances in genetic studies and telemetry and tagging data, as well as more than 900 public comments on the proposal. The reclassification into distinct population segments allows managers to take a more targeted approach to the specific threats facing different populations, while maintaining federal protections for all turtles.

Significant challenges remain to conserving and restoring green sea turtle populations around the world. Primary threats to green sea turtles include fisheries bycatch, habitat alteration, harvest of turtles and eggs, and disease. Development and rising seas from climate change are also leading to the loss of critical nesting beach habitat for green sea turtles. The agencies and partners continue to study green sea turtles to ensure that conservation and management decisions are driven by the best available science…

Original Article And Learn More, NOAA

Endangered Green Sea Turtles Return to Florida in Record Numbers, Take Part (01-06-2016)

Successful Conservation Efforts along Florida, Pacific Coasts Recognized in Revised ESA Listing of Green Sea Turtle, NOAA (03-21-2015)

Florida beaches are becoming darker, and that’s good for sea turtles, Science Daily (01-29-2016)
Newly published research confirms that the density of sea turtle nests on Florida beaches is reduced where artificial lights along the coast deter nesting females. The data also show that the network of sea turtle-friendly lighting ordinances along Florida’s coast seems to be working…

Japan Kills 200 Pregnant Minke Whales

“Freedom Breach.” Photograph courtesy of: © Pasha Reshikov


Flouting an international ruling, Japan resumed minke whaling for ‘scientific purposes’ during breeding season…

Read Full Article, National Geographic

Science Is No Excuse For Japan’s Antarctic Whaling, Court Rules, Nature (04-01-2014)
Japan’s hugely controversial ‘scientific whaling’ programme is not actually scientific and must be stopped, the International Court of Justice ruled…