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The day began with grim resolve, as volunteers descended upon a remote New Zealand beach to try to send some 100 beached pilot whales back to sea. By mid-afternoon local time, most of those whales — the survivors of country’s third-largest stranding on record — had successfully swum back into Golden Bay.
It could have been a happy ending to a story that began tragically, with some 300 whales found dead after more than 400 stranded earlier in the week on Farewell Spit, a thin strip of beach that arcs like a bent finger into the waters north of New Zealand’s South Island.
The volunteers’ celebrations did not last long, though.
Another large pod, composed of approximately 200 whales, stranded just hours later near the original site. The members of that second group appear to be different from the original survivors, which had been tagged before being refloated. None of the new whales bore those tags, NBC News reports.
The whales’ deaths are symbolic of humanity’s shocking disregard for marine life.
In January, 29 sperm whales were found stranded on shores around the North Sea, an area that is too shallow for the marine wildlife. Only recently were details of the animals’ necropsy released. However, scientists were deeply disturbed by what they found in the animals’ stomachs.
It’s been a devastating week for the whale population across Northern Europe as 12 whales died on or off the coast of the Dutch island of Texel and the German islands of Wangerooge and Helgoland this week.
Five sperm whales washed up on the shores of Texel on Tuesday night.
Attempts were made to save them but had to be discontinued during the night due to weather conditions which made it impossible to move the giant mammals.
Humpback whales usually arrive in the waters off Hawaii in December. But not this year. Why?
– TV: “Researchers say massive decline of fish is throwing off ecosystem” along California coast — Expert: “Population has truly collapsed”… They’re gone virtually everywhere — Whale numbers dropping significantly, squid disappearing, other major die-offs seen (VIDEO):
Monterey Herald, Nov 3, 2015 (emphasis added): Local whale watching tour companies and conservationists claim the anchovy population has “collapsed” due to environmental reasons… Fishing groups disagree, though they note the bay has seen some dramatic environmental changes.
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Oct 30, 2015: Monterey Bay anchovy numbers in decline, groups say… “Since late September, the whale numbers have decreased, their behavior has changed and their food, anchovies, are less abundant,” said Nancy Black, marine biologist… Whale watching tour companies and conservationists claim the anchovy population has “collapsed” due to environmental reasons… The fishing industry says that’s not the case though ocean conditions have been unusual. Some scientists, however, are finding a drastic decline in the forage fish… [Pacific Fishery Management Council staff officer Mike Burner said,] “The council’s definitely concerned with some of the things they’ve heard.”… “The population has truly collapsed,” [said] William Sydeman, president and senior scientist at the Farallon Institute. “There’s no way fishing could have that kind of impact, so it had to be environmental.”… plankton populations are low, affecting their predators up the marine food chain… “When anchovy numbers are low, they crowd at the coast and appear to be abundant,” Sydeman said… At the same time, the lack of anchovies offshore are maybe in part why scores of sea lions and sea birds… are starving up and down the coast. “Right now we’re seeing that the whales are more scattered and seem to be looking harder for food,” said Dorris Welch, marine biologist…
– Skyrocketing deaths on West Coast — Experts: “Extreme Mortality Event… dying in such high numbers… such great numbers… very concerned” — “It’s so mysterious… What is going on here?!” — “Possibilities like fallout from Fukushima” — Only 2 full necropsies on 700 deaths (VIDEOS) (ENENews, Sep 2, 2015):
VOA transcript, Sep 1, 2015 (emphasis added): Sharp Rise in Whale Deaths Being Investigated — “Since May, 30 dead whales have washed ashore on the Gulf of Alaska. (Deborah Fauquier, NOAA): ‘And the average for the whole year generally is 8, so it’s definitely significantly elevated and for us that was a reason for concern.’ The Extreme Mortality Event, as scientists are calling it, has triggered an investigation.”
– Extremely rare white Beluga whales spotted off northern England beach (Ice Age Now, Sep 3, 2015):
Belugas are “typically associated with pack ice,” said Dr Peter Evans, director of the Sea Watch Foundation. “It is very rare for them to travel as far south as NE England.” See video.
Their ghostly white forms normally blend with the ice floes of their native haunts off Greenland and the Barents Sea.
Filmed by Deb Powis. One of two beluga whales spotted off Warkworth Beach, Northumberland on 31 Aug 2015. A single beluga was first sighted in the area on the day before.
– 30 large whales found dead along the coast of Alaska, a cause remains unknown (The Watchers, Aug 22, 2015):
30 dead large whales have been found since May 2015, along the Western Gulf of Alaska and southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. Simultaneous increase in the number of large whale strandings in British Columbia, Canada, got the scientists on both ends to start an active investigation. The “Unusual Mortality Event” (UME) for large whales has been declared for the first time on Alaska.
An unusually high number of large whale deaths has been reported across the Western Gulf of Alaska, in the regions around Kodiak Island, Afognak Island, Chirikof Island and the Semidi Islands, and along the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale and four unidentified whale species have been found dead in the Western Gulf of Alaska.
Video credit: CBC News
The first whale death was reported in Marmot Bay on Kodiak Island, on May 23, 2015 and large whale strandings have continued since. This series of large whale deaths have been declared as an “Unusual Mortality Event” (UME), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported.
– Epidemic of sea mammal deaths explodes as Fukushima radiation contaminates one-third of the earth (Natural News, Aug 19, 2015):
Dead and dying sea mammals continue to wash ashore at unusual and alarming rates along the California coast. Scientists are stumped, suggesting that the cause may be food shortages caused by abnormally warm waters – but unsure of what has caused the ocean off the California coast to warm so rapidly.
Meanwhile, the radioactive plume released into the Pacific Ocean following the Fukushima nuclear disaster draws ever closer to North America’s western coast. At the same time, radioactive material is still pouring into the sea from the Fukushima site. Could the ongoing radioactive poisoning of the Pacific and the dying of its marine mammals be related?
– Giant whales found dead up & down Pacific NW coast, scientists ‘baffled’ over surge — 25+ carcasses reported in past month — Gov’t: “Troubling… Definitely a pulse of deaths” — Experts: “Alarming spike… Exceptionally rare to see a dead humpback” — Concerns about unidentified pathogen (PHOTOS) (ENENews, Aug 13, 2015):
Vancouver Sun, Aug 13, 2015 (emphasis added): Four B.C. whale deaths in a week baffle scientists; Necropsies hope to provide answers as carcasses continue to pop up… four dead humpback whales in B.C. waters in a single week, just as Alaska is experiencing a surge of whale deaths, has scientists searching for a possible connection… 21 humpback and fin whales have been found dead in southeast Alaska during the past month, according to Paul Cottrell, Pacific marine mammal coordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “It’s definitely a pulse of deaths and something that we’re going to keep our eye on,” Cottrell said. No cause has been pinpointed for any of the deaths… “These samples are very important… to see if there’s any relationship — whether there’s a pathogen that may be causing this,” Cottrell said… Media reports have suggested [one] died after becoming entangled in fishing gear, but Cottrell said it is far too early to come to that conclusion… The scientists also noticed wounds on the whale’s body… “if there’s anthropogenic or human-caused things affecting the recovery, those are things that we want to know about.”
– Toxic bloom “basically eating the West Coast alive” — “Unusual deaths up and down the Pacific coast” — “All populations of marine mammals are way down” in areas — Experts: “Largest ever recorded… This is really unprecedented territory… Never seen an event like this” (VIDEO) (ENENews, Aug 9, 2015):
Al Jazeera, Aug 1, 2015: The toxic algae blooms in the Pacific Ocean stretching from southern California to Alaska — already the largest ever recorded — appear to have reached as far as the Aleutian Islands, scientists say. “The anecdotal evidence suggests we’re having a major event,” said Bruce Wright, a scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association… “All the populations (of marine mammals) are way down in the Aleutians.”… the blooms are responsible for unprecedented closures of fisheries and unusual deaths of marine life up and down the Pacific coast… The discovery of nearly a dozen dead whales in the Gulf of Alaska near Kodiak also raised suspicion… Other die-offs of species have been reported along the Aleutian chain, stretching nearly 1,500 miles across the north Pacific.
– US Gov’t: “We don’t know what’s going on” in Pacific — Many ill baby seals being abandoned; Dozens of walruses found dead; Dying whales, birds, fish — “Unprecedented things happening” — Experts: “It’s been a very unusual marine mammal year… I’m really worried, very concerned” (AUDIO) (ENENews, Aug 7, 2015):
Alaska Dispatch News, Jul 24, 2015 (emphasis added): Ailing seal pup rescued in latest discovery of distressed Alaska marine mammals … one of a string of marine mammals injured or killed in Alaska waters this year. An orphaned and injured seal pup… was one of several found this summer, federal agency officials said… The pup was lethargic and very thin — only 16.5 pounds… It was the second such case this week, NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said Friday. An orphaned seal was picked up in Metlakatla… NOAA officials were also called out to another case in Yakutat recently, she said. “We don’t know what’s going on in the environment, but it does seem to be an unusual year,” Speegle said. Seal pups are not the only marine mammals experiencing some difficulty in waters off Alaska. NOAA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks are conducting an investigation into the deaths of 14 whales… U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been investigating the deaths of approximately 25 walruses found in the area of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge… Carrie Goertz, a staff veterinarian at the SeaLife Center, said… she agreed that there have been some out-of-the-ordinary events with marine mammals in general. “There’s definitely been some clusters of unusual deaths,” she said.
– Many large marine mammals found dead around California, public warned to expect further strandings — FOX: “Very disturbing… I kept running into more… So unusual… Part of troubling trend” — ABC: “So many dead animals, it felt really tragic… Very peculiar… Fear there’s more to come” (VIDEO) (ENENews, July 7, 2015):
Fox San Francisco transcript, Jul 6, 2015 (emphasis added): Several dead sea mammals found along Ocean Beach — In San Francisco, an unusual and sad sight at Ocean Beach today. That’s where several dead marine mammals washed ashore… This part of a troubling trend… Back in May, 3 dead whales washed up along San Francisco beaches… Joey DeRuy: “I took photos of it because it was so unusual“… But that wasn’t the end of his unusual beach sightings. DeRuy: “I kept walking and I kept running into more.” He said he spotted a small dead seal, then a much larger mammal that appeared to be an elephant seal. Several people walking by couldn’t help but stop and wonder what is behind the deaths… DeRuy: “It’s very disturbing, because I’ve never seen so many animals.”
KTVU tweet, Jul 7, 2015: Dead dolphin & seals are latest marine mammals to wash up on Bay Area beaches