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dolphins Archives | Ocean Alliance

An Open Letter to Japan from Dr. Roger Payne

By | nov14, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

A Sympathetic Voice: An Open Letter to Japan

When Christchurch, New Zealand was largely destroyed by a series of major earthquakes, the epicenters of those quakes lay along a fault line that runs very close to my house. Although we were exposed to the same violence that Christchurch was, and felt over 500 strong quakes, our house survived. That experience gave me the greatest empathy and concern for your country when on March 11, 2011, the Tohoku earthquake triggered the tsunami that overwhelmed the nuclear reactors at Fukushima. Read More

Saving the Best for Last: The Final Leg of Operation Toxic Gulf 2014

By | aug14, Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf | No Comments

With the final leg of Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 being the return of the RV Odyssey to her home port of Key West, FL., and with numerous crew members on tight schedules with flights to catch, there were always time limits on how much we could achieve along the way. As part of our schedule, we had only one full day on the traditional sites southwest of Pensacola where we normally search for whales. As any crewmember could tell you, one day is never enough.

There has been a consistent theme across these “Leg summaries,” all centered around how to describe the emotions when we find a whale against the odds. As before during this highly successful campaign, experience, patience and a vessel perfectly suited to finding and tracking whales proved a tough combination to beat. Sure enough, around midday on our first and only day in the traditional sperm whale habitat we had quiet clicks, then loud clicks, then blows, then a biopsy.

calf breachAs we tracked the whales–an adult female and a large juvenile, we were subjected to an extraordinary show, its rarity only exceeded by its spectacular nature. The juvenile whale performed two bouts of full breaching, each with 4-5 breaches, with the second bout occurring only 100 metres from the vessel. To see the massive hulking body of a sperm whale erupting from the waves in an explosion of muscle and foam was quite indescribable. How lucky we all are!

With these biopsies achieved, the Odyssey left the whale grounds overnight, heading for the continental shelf that runs parallel north-south with the west coast of Florida, approximately 100 miles off. In the past, as we go further south the likelihood of finding whales decreases, though we’d heard there supposedly exists a mysterious population of sperm whales northwest of the Dry Tortugas. After two nights and one day with no clicks, we regarded the chance of finding whales as increasingly unlikely as we ventured into waters further south than we have ever found whales before. Lo and behold, at 6 a.m. on the third day a lone whale seemed to come completely out of nowhere. Five minutes after being detected acoustically it was spotted, and half an hour later we added another biopsy to our data set.

Harry Milkman on watchLater on that afternoon, even further south, another set of clicks beamed through the boat. They seemed far too frequent and numerous to be bottlenose dolphins and as we got closer it became apparent that it was in fact a large group of whales!

As we headed even further south, well in to the afternoon another sound came over the array–clicking, but seemingly too numerous, too rapid, and too far south to be sperm whales. Large dolphins perhaps–Risso’s or bottlenose? As we got closer, something seemed amiss. The clicks, whilst very frequent, were too robust and steady for dolphins.

As it turned out, we had just run directly into the largest group of sperm whales we have encountered all summer–anywhere from 5-15 animals in a couple of square kilometres. It was almost certainly a group from the evasive population northwest of the Dry Tortugas. Five years of searching, and the final sperm whales to be encountered! The samples obtained on this last day are incredibly important, as the levels of toxicants within can be compared with those from the northern Gulf. Over five years we have now found whales from as far west as the Texas/Louisiana border, all along the continental shelf to the deep water northwest of the Dry Tortugas. Do the continuous, if sporadic, locations of whales along the shelf suggest that connections between these populations are more common than previously believed? Who knows, but this exciting discovery raises important questions that need answering.

As the day drew to a close with the sun’s light fading, our deadline for arrival in to Key West officially ending this campaign’s quest for biopsies, a sentimentality grew over the crew. In the backdrop of a magnificent sunset, the dinghy was put in the water to get some last photos of the Odyssey after a highly successful fifth and final season. As the dinghy sped around the Odyssey with the light fading fast, the shapes of some bottlenose dolphins became apparent bowriding the dinghy. A final farewell from those creatures we are striving to protect.

-Andy Rogan, Scientific Director for Operation Toxic Gulf 2014Odyssey Dinghy sunset

Operation Toxic Gulf Video – Pantropical Spotted Dolphins

By | Education, Gulf of Mexico, Odyssey, Operation Toxic Gulf | No Comments

We had some very high energy visitors to the RV Odyssey during Operation Toxic Gulf 2014–pantropical spotted dolphins riding our bow long enough that we could capture this video with our bowcam. These dolphins are 6 to 7 feet and are recognized by the dark “cape” on their backs. We can’t say for certain but they seem to be having a pretty good time:

You can also watch bowcam videos of sperm whales and Atlantic spotted dolphins.

Odyssey Bowcam Footage of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

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

During Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 we hope to introduce you to the many species of cetaceans found in the Gulf of Mexico despite the myriad of environmental challenges such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, oil rigs, agricultural run-off, dead zones, shipping traffic noise and fishing debris. The Odyssey crew have encountered a wide variety of dolphin species in the Gulf, including these Atlantic spotted dolphins who came to enjoy a bowride. Our bowcam allows us to view animal behaviors underwater, so enjoy these dolphins in their natural habitat (the younger animals can be identified by their lack of spots):

To learn more about Atlantic spotted dolphins or to spend some time with them in the wild check out the Wild Dolphin Project run by our friend Dr. Denise Herzing.

An Extraordinary Odyssey Encounter in the Gulf of Mexico

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

Leg 2 Part 2 by Scientific Manager of Operation Toxic Gulf Andy Rogan:

Dawn on June 18th broke, a last ditch effort for the leg to get more biopsies. And as we turned north to explore a new area a quite extraordinary day began with a familiar sound.

Watching a whale on FLIRA click. Not a whole series of clicks. Just one. There was a sperm whale out there somewhere, but it was some distance away. To find a sperm whale from just one click requires patience, vigilance experience and skill. And that is what was applied. One click turned into a short cluster of clicks. The boat headed in the estimate direction of the whale, regularly stopping to reduce interference from the engines on the hydrophone. The clicks became louder, clearer. Eventually a quiet yet steady train of clicks visualized across the computer screen. One train of clicks turned in to two trains of clicks. Two trains of clicks=two whales. A few hours after the initial click, an array of dotted lines littered the screen in front of us. Read More

New Bowcam Footage of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico

By | Education, Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

We continue to review hundreds of hours of bow cam footage from Operation Toxic Gulf, our 2013 joint campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Gulf of Mexico following up on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. So far we’ve shared melon-headed whales and rough-toothed dolphins, sperm whales, and now Atlantic spotted dolphins enjoying a calm clear day. Iain Kerr narrates:

Protesting the Taiji Dolphin Drives in Boston

By | Commercial whaling, feb14, Ocean Alliance News, Sea Shepherd | No Comments

Taiji protest in Boston

Yesterday members of Ocean Alliance joined Sea Shepherd Boston for the World Love for Dolphins Day protest in front of the Japanese Consulate in Boston. The weather cleared long enough to shine some sun on the group with signs in the heart of Boston’s financial district. The protest coincided with demonstrations in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. organized by Sea Shepherd USA, along with a Valentines drive with children sending Valentines from around the country to the Japanese Embassy in D.C. Three Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians — Olga Pristin, Graziella Garri and Alex Shopov were in attendance to answer questions about their experiences on the ground in Taiji, Japan.

Ocean Alliance protesting dolphin slaughters in BostonThe reception of the demonstration in Boston was enthusiastic with lots of horns honking and thumbs up. A group of middle school and high school students cheered as they passed. Lots of Bostonians stopped to ask questions about the situation in Taiji, most had never heard of the dolphin drives and slaughter.

The season in Taiji lasts through the month of March and the Cove Guardians will be there until the end to witness and livestream on their website.

 

Ocean Alliance Joining World Love for Dolphins Day Protest February 14

By | Commercial whaling, Ocean Alliance News, Sea Shepherd | No Comments

Dolphin ValentineOn Friday, February 14th Ocean Alliance will be joining Sea Shepherd Boston for World Love for Dolphins Day – a peaceful protest against the dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan. There will be protests held at the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C. and in front of Japanese consulates around the country.  The protests will begin at 12 noon and conclude at 1:30 pm. To join us in Boston please meet with signs at:

Japanese Consulate General’s office:

Federal Reserve Plaza, 600 Atlantic Avenue, Boston

Read More

How We Biopsy Sperm Whales

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

Here is a look at the science we do on board the RV Odyssey in the Gulf of Mexico. This film was made in 2010 with the team from the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine just after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Alas the weather is not always this nice nor are the whales this abundant but you get to see how we approach sperm whales and collect a small biopsy of skin and blubber for toxicological analysis and the development of cell lines. This is work is conducted under National Marine Fisheries permit number 13545. Read More

Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr Is Asking You to Help End the Taiji Dolphin Hunt

By | Commercial whaling, Ocean Alliance News, Sea Shepherd | No Comments

Iain Kerr with Atlantic Spotted Dolphins - Photo by Leonard AubeIt’s hard to express how deeply disturbing it is to see the act of barbarism that is going on in Taji, Japan right now. I consider quite a few Japanese people as close friends and I know that they abhor this hunt, so I don’t see this as a cultural act (the hunt started in 1969) but the act of a small group of individuals who have found a way to make a lot of money very quickly while hiding under a banner of culture.  Even if it was cultural this does not excuse all sins — cannibalism and slavery were once considered cultural, but as we have developed as a society we have realized these acts are unacceptable. Read More

BP OIL SPILL LINKED TO LUNG DAMAGE IN DOLPHINS

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

Dolphin in the Gulf of Mexico - Photo by Eliza MuirheadThis week the news spread around the world that a study is linking a  lung disease found in some dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico to the BP Oil Spill in 2010. The NOAA-led study was published on Dec. 18, 2013 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. BP is disputing the results, read the full story here.

Ocean Alliance is currently working to raise funds to return to the Gulf next summer for our fifth year following up on the disaster. Read about our research in the Gulf  and this year’s Operation Toxic Gulf partnership with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.