Category

Whales

The World Unites for the Vaquita

By | Ocean Alliance News, Whales | No Comments

Ocean Alliance has joined NGO’s from around the world  in asking for protections for the vaquita porpoise, facing imminent extinction in Mexico:

NGO Statement on Vaquita at the 65th Meeting of the International Whaling Commission

The below signed NGOs express their deep concern regarding the critically endangered vaquita.

The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) could be extinct by 2018 unless all gillnets are eliminated from its range and the illegal fishery and trade of totoaba are ended. The vaquita has the most limited geographic range of any marine cetacean (whale, dolphin or porpoise); the entire species inhabits the northernmost Gulf of California. It is the smallest – and the most endangered – cetacean species in the world. Read More

Operation Toxic Gulf Crew Biopsy Most Endangered Whale Species in Gulf of Mexico

By | Gulf of Mexico, july14, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf, Whales | No Comments

Andy Rogan, Scientific Manager:

I had been up the mast for around an hour and a half before something in the periphery of my vision caught my eye. I turned quickly, but whatever I saw had quickly disappeared beneath the waves. I continued looking in the general direction, quite far off of our port bow, and sure enough, a couple minutes later a large dark shape cut through the water heading straight at us! I couldn’t identify the species immediately. But what I did know was that I had never seen it before, and that it was special. Read More

The First Sperm Whale Encounter of Operation Toxic Gulf 2014

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf, Whales | No Comments

Guest Post by Odyssey Scientific Manager Andy Rogan:

Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 Leg 2, Part 1

The second leg of our Operation Toxic Gulf campaign was quite extraordinary. When I decided to write a blog about the leg it quickly became apparent that I could not justify cramming it all into one entry, and so it was split into two. This blog documents the first half of the leg. Read More

First-Ever Paper on the Toxicity of Chemical Dispersants in Whales Comes from Our Gulf Expeditions

By | Gulf of Mexico, jun14, Ocean Alliance News, Pollution, Whales | No Comments

In 2010 the RV Odyssey headed to the Gulf of Mexico with a team from Ocean Alliance and our partners at the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology at the University of Southern Maine. The Deepwater Horizon well had been capped, but the Gulf wildlife and people were now challenged with coping with the oil and dispersants that remained. Our specific concern was the potential effects of this disaster on the population of sperm whales living in the Gulf in the deep water where the disaster occurred, and having sampled hundreds of sperm whales around the world during the Voyage of the Odyssey 2000-2005 we were well-equipped and trained to track and sample sperm whales in the Gulf. Our global data set gave us a unique opportunity to put what we found in the Gulf into a global context. We’ve been back every year since the disaster and this week those expeditions have produced a new study. Read More

Join the IoT Olympiad and You Could Win a Whale Watch with Sir Patrick Stewart

By | Ocean Alliance News, Technology, Whales | No Comments

Ahead of a week of tech-related conferences and expos Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has declared May 2-9 “Internet of Things Week” in the Bay State, making Massachusetts the first state to do so. An exciting part of this coming week is the “Internet of Things” (IoT) Olympiad, a 48-hour hackathon in which IT developers collaborate and compete for a common goal.

IoT OlympiadOne of this year’s themes is “Sustain Life: Sustainable Maritime Economies,” put forward by our friend Tom Balf from Maritime Gloucester. Recently Tom approached Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr and asked if he had any potential projects for the IoT Olympiad, and did we have any incentive packages that could be offered to motivate participants. Iain introduced an idea we’ve been thinking about for a while called Whale Snap. The idea is that you when you are on the water and spot a whale you take a photo with the Whale Snap app. The app would identify the species of whale and give you basic information on that animal almost immediately. Then it would link to a database and contact you back with more info about the whale, potentially its name and when it was last seen, and threats to the species. In this way we can:

  1. Minke whale - photo by Tim Watters

    Minke whale – photo by Tim Watters

    Educate people about regional whale populations

  2. Empower citizen scientists to collecting data
  3. Fund our research, education and conservation efforts

 

 

Iain believes the potential for this program is huge. It could start as a regional program with humpback whales and then go global with Whale Snap applications that are specific to different whale populations around the world.  Considering that Ocean Alliance has data on whale populations from over 20 counties we are well suited to take on this project.

Prizes include:

  • Memorabilia signed by Sir Patrick Stewart and Dr. Roger Payne
  • 7 Seas Whale Watch with Sir Patrick Stewart (date to be determined)
  • Work space at our headquarters in the historic Paint Factory on Gloucester Harbor

To join the IoT Olympiad register here. Good luck!

Roger Payne Attends Marine Mammal Conference in NZ

By | Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne, Whales | No Comments

2013 Marine Mammal Conference PosterFor the last forty years, every two years, marine mammal scientists and educators and other interested parties from around the world get together the Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. There are specialized training workshops, discussion groups, a video night along with the regular oral presentations and poster presentations on everything from pollution to captivity. Read More

BP OIL SPILL DISASTER RESPONSE – OPERATION TOXIC GULF FIELD REPORT 2013

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Odyssey, Operation Toxic Gulf, Sea Shepherd, Sperm Whales, Whales | No Comments

Ocean Alliance in the GulfThe following is a summary of goals and accomplishments for the 2013 collaborative research expedition Operation Toxic Gulf carried out by Sea Shepherd Global and Ocean Alliance in the Gulf of Mexico (USA) aboard the Research Vessel Odyssey. While we continue to work closely with our scientific partner the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine, this year our campaign partner was Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Global. Read More

THE ODYSSEY HEADS BACK TO THE GULF

By | Ocean Alliance News, Odyssey, Sounds, Technology, Whales | No Comments

Odyssey with acoustic gearThe RV Odyssey is preparing to leave on October 29th for a 21-day bioacoustic research trip into the Gulf of Mexico with a team from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography under the direction of Dr. John Hildebrand.

The Odyssey and crew will be working in familiar territory, they will be running down the deep water drop-off in the Gulf of Mexico where they have been working the last 4 summers in response to the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010.

The Scripps team will be deploying HARPS – acoustic monitoring devices on the floor of the ocean.  They will also be picking up HARPS that the Odyssey deployed almost 10 months ago.

“I am interested in how sound is used by marine mammals and how sound can be used as a tool for assessment of marine mammal populations. Recent advancements in acoustic recording technology have allowed long-term and broad-band records of underwater sound to be collected. These recordings open new windows into the behavior and distribution of marine mammals (as well as other marine organisms such as fish).”  -Dr. John Hildebrand

Scripps/Odyssey team loading the boatAcoustic gear

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 1. 4 large containers of equipment arrive at the Odyssey in Key West

Photo 2.  Crew manhandling weights aboard Odyssey. 50 pound weights are used to drop acoustic packs to the sea floor.  80 are loaded aboard Odyssey – 4,000 pounds or 2 tons

Photo 3.  Acoustic gear being loaded aboard Odyssey.

 

 

THE RAINY NIGHT THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF ROGER PAYNE’S LIFE

By | Roger Payne, Whales | No Comments

Ever wonder how it all began for Roger Payne and Ocean Alliance? In his own words:

 A Life Among WhalesI was a neurophysiologist at Tufts University and had never even seen a whale. I was in my laboratory one March night during a sleet storm when I heard through the local radio news that a dead whale had washed ashore on the beach. I drove out there. The sleet had turned to rain when I reached the place. Many people had come to see the whale earlier, but by the time I arrived there were only a few, and when I reached the tidal wrack where the whale lay, the beach was deserted. Read More

DO WHALES COMPETE WITH HUMANS FOR FISH?

By | Commercial whaling, Odyssey, Sperm Whales, Voyage of the Odyssey, Whales | No Comments

In this log from the Voyage of the Odyssey Genevieve Johnson wrote about the attempt to pin the cause of dwindling fish stocks on whales.

Sperm whale - Photo by Chris Johnson

Sperm whale – Photo by Chris Johnson

Dr. Seiji Ohsumi, Director of the Cetacean Research Institute (ICR), Japan’s major institute for whale studies, co-authored a paper entitled Estimation of total food consumption by cetaceans in the world’s oceans. This often quoted “scientific” source received no peer review. (How do I know this? Because if it had, it would have been torn to pieces by other scientists.) Nonetheless, it’s used as the “scientific” rationale for a new diplomatic offensive Japan is mounting which attempts to make the world regard whales as greedy competitors to humans for fish from the sea. On November 17, 2000, Dr Ohsumi said that the need for Japan to carry out “scientific” whaling was because:

    “Until recently, the question of ‘what and how much whales are eating’ has not been taken up as a subject for discussion, but we find it now necessary to deal with the issue.”

This is spectacular nonsense (I think that’s the appropriate technical term). Read More

JUST ANOTHER DAY AT WHALE CAMP – RAINBOW AND MOTHER/CALF PARADE!

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

BLOG 7 September 6, 2013

An amazing day today!

Rainbow Over Whale Camp - Photo by Vicky Rowntree Just after the airflight team left to survey the whales, the rising sun created a beautiful rainbow that arched over the cliff-top observation site and appeared to land in the water directly in front of whale camp. After a dousing rain, I hiked to the cliffs and found a spot protected from the strong wind behind a broad bush to leave my backpack full of gear. Just as I dropped my pack I heard a loud blow beneath me and quickly unpacked the camera to take identification photographs of the white markings on the head of the whale that was passing by.  What followed was amazing!! Read More

ALARMING NUMBER OF SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE CALF FATALITIES

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

BLOG 6 – September 2013 – Research Station in Península Valdés

Dead Right Whale Calf 2008 - Photo by Iain KerrI make “focal animal follows” of mothers and their calves to determine the amount of time they spend in high and low energy behaviors. The Península Valdés right whales have a big problem.  An unusually high number of calves have died on this calving ground since 2005. Read More

PARENTING YOUR TWO TON BUNDLE OF JOY

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

BLOG 5 – September 2013 – Research Station in Península Valdés

Cliff Observation Site - Photo by Vicki RowntreeWhenever the wind is not blowing too hard, I spend my time on the cliffs of Península Valdés watching mother/calf pairs as they pass beneath me on their way to and from camp bay. I choose a mother/calf pair that is swimming along the coast towards me and continuously record the behavior of each whale until they pass out of sight. “Focal animal follows” are a wonderful way to get to know individual whales and learn how they spend their day. Read More

YET ANOTHER THREAT TO WHALES – GULL ATTACKS

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

BLOG 4 – 1 September 2013 – at the Research Station in Península Valdés

Gull Attack on Right Whale We spent the day recording behavioral data from the cliffs. Vicky records the behavior of right whale mothers and calves, and their respiration rate as a way to estimate their body condition. I began our annual monitoring of the frequency of gull attacks on the whales. Kelp gulls have learned to feed on the skin and blubber of live whales at Península Valdés. The gulls land and peck on the back of the whales, opening lesions and affecting the whales’ behavior. Read More

THE FINGERPRINTS OF THE RIGHT WHALE – CALLOSITIES

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

BLOG 3 – 30 August 2013 – from Península Valdés

Guanacos in Patagonia - Photo by Iain KerrWe spent a good part of this week at technical meetings and running errands in Puerto Madryn, the city nearest to Península Valdés. It is now 6:30 PM on a calm afternoon. As I write this, I am sitting in the truck in the middle of nowhere, looking at the endless shrubland around me, while a family of guanacos (the South American camels) walks slowly among the thorny bushes. We drove to this particular spot because it is one of the few “high” places where we can get cell phone signal to connect to the outside world, send and receive messages, make phone calls… and wait for a friend. Read More

THE OLD MAN AND THE WHALE

By | Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

The Old Man and the WhaleAs the Right Whale team arrives in Patagonia for our 43rd field season we wanted to share with you a unique opportunity to learn more about Península Valdés – the people, the setting and the whales. The Old Man and the Whale is a small treasure of a book that will transport you to our whale camp, written by a man who knows it well. John Atkinson has been traveling to Patagonia from Canada every year for over 21 years, for the sole purpose of hanging out of an airplane to take aerial photos of the whales. He has immersed himself in the culture, so it only made sense for him as a full-time writer to write a story about a place he loves. Read More

INTRODUCING MARIANO SIRONI – RIGHT WHALE PROGRAM SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

Mariano and tail - Aug 2010I was born and raised in Córdoba, in central Argentina, several hundred kilometers away from the sea. Although I was only six years old, I vividly remember the first time I saw the ocean. It was on a summer vacation with my family in the coast of Uruguay, close to the Brazilian border. We camped for two weeks in a beautiful national park with long beaches in the western South Atlantic. Read More

OUR 43RD FIELD SEASON IN PATAGONIA BEGINS

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

Southern Right Whale Mother and CalfRight whales are the most endangered of great whales. When Dr. Roger Payne started gathering data on the Southern Right whale in Peninsula Valdez, Argentina in 1970 he was concerned that this species might be lost forever and so Ocean Alliance’s Southern Right Whale Program began.

For centuries, right whales were hunted mercilessly. Early whalers called them “the right whales to kill” because they are slow, have a thick blubber layer that produces abundant oil, and float when dead. Southern right whales were protected internationally in 1935. As whalers stopped hunting right whales, the populations in the southern hemisphere have recovered substantially, although they are still below their pre-whaling sizes.

Over the last 43 years we have conducted aerial surveys monitoring the right whale populations, our catalog now contains over 3,000 photo-identified individual right whales from Península Valdés, Argentina. Important findings on the biology of right whales were obtained using benign, non-lethal techniques. Among other things, we now know that females reproduce on average once every three years, their mean age at first parturition is 9 years, the annual rate of population increase is 5.1%, juveniles use breeding grounds to socialize with other juveniles and to potentially learn important behaviors, and right whales can shift their distribution along the shorelines of Península Valdés over decades.

The documented growth of the population of southern right whales in Argentina has been regarded for several decades as a sign of hope that recovery can occur in a whale species, but recent mortality events suggest that this population of whales may be less healthy and robust than previously thought. This reinforces the importance of continuing our research and monitoring efforts to help understand the population trends and their causes.

Southern Right Whale The great whales are important indicators of ocean health because they consume such large quantities of food and occupy home ranges that span thousands of miles. The Patagonian right whale population is recognized as one of the best indicators of the response of baleen whales to climate change in the Southern Ocean because the reproductive histories of so many of its individuals have been recorded continuously for four decades. Continuing the annual aerial surveys of the Patagonian right whale population is essential for understanding the health of this population and its extremely important western South Atlantic ecosystem.

“The (Right Whale) data you (Ocean Alliance) hold would no doubt be the single most valuable source of information on whales and their environment available… there really is nothing else out there quite as good.”
– Steve Reilly, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The Patagonian Right Whale Program is now a collaborative effort of Ocean Alliance and Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas (ICB), an Argentine nonprofit founded by Roxana Schteinbarg and Diego Taboada, based in Buenos Aires. For more information please visit the the ICB website or the English version.

We look forward to sharing with you our 43rd field season in Argentina in the coming weeks.

OPERATION TOXIC GULF 2013 – THE LAST WORD

By | Gulf of Mexico, News from the Gulf, Ocean Alliance News, Odyssey, Operation Toxic Gulf, Sea Shepherd, Whales | No Comments

This video is a final update from the 2013 campaign onboard the RV Odyssey and features Paul Watson, Dr. Roger Payne and Dr. Iain Kerr. Operation Toxic Gulf is a collaborative campaign between Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance.

vidgrabs

Sperm whale diveThis campaign has focused on Gulf sperm whales because they are at the top of the Gulf’s food chain and, as such, they can act as a bio-indicator of the health of the entire ecosystem. Ocean Alliance, its scientific partners and Sea Shepherd will be able to put any discoveries they make in the Gulf into a global context due to the fact that from 2000 to 2005 the RV Odyssey circumnavigated the globe collecting baseline data on the levels of pollutants and metals in sperm whales.

We hope to return to the Gulf in 2014 so this winter we will be fundraising and working with our scientific partners to analyze the data that we and the Wise Laboratory team have collected in the Gulf over the last four years.  Since we are looking at the chronic effects as against the short-term effects of this disaster this analysis will take years.

Your support makes this all possible.  Please bookmark our website, like us on Facebook and any financial support helps us move forward with research, education and capital investment.  From the crew of Ocean Alliance, we thank you!

Read our blog posts from the Gulf of Mexico

FOR THE WHALES – A FINAL CREW BLOG FROM OPERATION TOXIC GULF

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Odyssey, Operation Toxic Gulf, Sea Shepherd, Whales | No Comments

Iain KerrThis spring I was deeply concerned that Ocean Alliance would not be able to return to the Gulf of Mexico to continue the work Dr. John Wise and I started in 2010 looking at the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on marine mammals.  Around that time I was talking with my good friend Alex Cornelissen (Shepherd Global Executive Officer) about another mutual concern and the Gulf came up in discussion.  Less than a month later Alex told me that we would be returning to the Gulf with the full support of Sea Shepherd Global and so Operation Toxic Gulf was born. Read More

OPERATION TOXIC GULF: FINAL PORT CALL, PRESENTATION, AND BOAT TOURS

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Odyssey, Sea Shepherd, Whales | No Comments

Sea-Shepherd-crewThis Sunday, August 4, Open Books will host the final presentation of the summer from the Operation Toxic Gulf crew, who are currently wrapping up the last leg of their 2013 study. Representatives from Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will present photographs and results of their work at the event, which begins at 7 p.m.

On Monday, August 5, the Ocean Alliance-Sea Shepherd team will open their boat, the Research Vessel Odyssey, for tours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Palafox Marina. This will be the third and final time the public will be able to check out the ship. Like Sunday’s presentation, the ship tours are free, but donations are accepted. Read More

CALLING ALL “WHALE WARS” FANS

By | Gulf of Mexico, Odyssey, Sea Shepherd, Whales | One Comment

Erwin Vermeulen

While you wait patiently for news of season six of “Whale Wars,” the Sea Shepherd crew continue to work for the oceans…

When the Antarctic whaling season ends, this is how a Sea Shepherd spends their summer break. Here’s an update from Erwin Vermeulen, veteran Sea Shepherd crew member, featured in Season 3 of Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” and “Viking Shores,” while he spends the summer in the Gulf of Mexico as an Ocean Alliance partner on the RV Odyssey, defending sperm whales from one of their biggest threats: ocean pollution.

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It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cry if I Want To

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Odyssey, Sea Shepherd Australia, Whales | No Comments

eliza_0001Tomorrow I will celebrate my one year anniversary as a Sea Shepherd crew member. Over the past 12 months I have sailed enough miles to circumnavigate the globe. I have been a part of defending two of the last remaining pristine wildernesses areas left on this planet: Antarctica, and The Kimberley region in Western Australia. I’ve seen the same humpbacks breaching against the blue mountains of icebergs while they’re feeding in Antarctica, breach against the red cliffs of the Kimberley coast while they socialize and calve in Western Australia.

But today I find myself somewhere quite different: The Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico could not be more opposite to Antarctica and the Kimberley, it’s a picture example of what it means to “industrialize” a body of water. Hundreds of oil rigs light up the horizon through the night and bright orange buoys scatter the surface attached to long lines that stretch their deadly tentacles 3 miles into the depths. eliza_0009 In the Gulf we have sailed through oil slicks that we could smell before we could see them, casting their rainbow sheen over the horizon. Over a 100 miles from land we’ve picked up human trash in the form of styrofoam boxes, discarded fishing buoys, balloons celebrating birthdays and newborns and floating plastic versions of just about everything imaginable. Read More