Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A tough year for whales

This week, the Society for Marine Mammology is meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia (I couldn't attend because of back surgery, and yes, I'm bummed).  The SMM meeting will be discussing a lot of topics including improved whale tracking and automated identification. Members are also discussing a touch year for whales in general.
The vaquita porpoise is a handful of breeding-age females away from extinction. A desperate last-chance effort by Mexican and American experts, using Navy dolphins to help locate the vaquitas, is underway to catch 12 animals and keep them in sea pens. Nothing else has stemmed the losses from bycatch by fish-hunting poachers. 
The humpbacks didn't have a good year on the Atlantic. NOAA declared an"unusual mortality event" as 53 animals died in the last two years, half due to ship collisions. 
The North Atlantic right whales have had it even tougher considering the total population is only 500 or so.  Sixteen whales have been found dead this year. Tightening rules on ship speeds in key areas hasn't helped. Authorities have intensely studied every carcass they've been able to reach, and ship collisions and drifting fishing gear are the top killers.
So here's hoping the SMM meeting will help add new information, analysis,and tools, We've driven way too many cetaceans off the planet. Banning most commercial whaling in 1986 has made a difference, but not enough. It's a grim situation.  Support whale conservation with your votes, your money, and your awareness.  


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