This holiday season our whale adoption packages are being revamped with new treats for your whale lover. We’re excited to announce the release of a new sound recording called “Voyages of the Odyssey: Acoustic Adventures,” the first since “Songs of the Humpback Whale” and “Deep Voices,” which includes humpback whale songs recorded in the Seychelles during the Voyage of the Odyssey 2000-2005, plus melon-headed whales, pseudorcas (false killer whales), and sperm whales recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. This new cd will be included in all whale adoption packages. The new adoption packages will be ready for ordering next week, so stay tuned and #GoGreenBuyBlue!
For the first time, scientists working in the waters of Patagonia are using satellite tags to remotely track southern right whales from their breeding/calving grounds in the sheltered bays of Península Valdés, Argentina, to unknown feeding grounds somewhere in the western South Atlantic. This could eventually provide clues to the cause of one of the largest great whale die-off ever recorded.
The international effort for answers includes members from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Aqualie Institute of Brazil, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Cascadia Research Collective, working in cooperation with Fundación Patagonia Natural, Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas / Ocean Alliance, the University of California, Davis, the Dirección de Flora y Fauna (Wildlife Service), la Secretaría de Turismo, el Ministerio de Ambiente (Ministry of the Environment) of Argentina’s Chubut Province.
The announcement was made as conservationists are holding the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia – a once-in-a-decade global forum on protected areas.
Said Dr. Graham Harris, Director of WCS’s Argentina Program: “A provincial protected area and a key area with a long history of work by WCS, Peninsula Valdés was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in June of 2014 due to its importance to protect both terrestrial wildlife and marine species along its waters. As the World Parks Congress in Sydney is underway, it is imperative to highlight the importance of protected areas like Peninsula Valdes to safeguard unique wildlife and habitats.”
Over the past month, the team succeeded in affixing satellite transmitters to five southern right whales, a difficult task conducted during varying weather conditions in Golfo Nuevo, one of the two protected gulfs of Península Valdés and an important breeding ground for the southern right whale.
Vicky Rowntree, director of Ocean Alliance’s Right Whale Program comments: “It’s incredibly exciting to follow the daily movements of individual whales which we usually see only one day a year, at most, when we conduct our annual photo-identification surveys. The tagged whale that traveled southwest for a bit and then retraced its path was fascinating–why did it change its direction, what was it looking for and what did it find? By matching photographs of right whales taken in places far from the Peninsula Valdes, we’ve known for years that some PV mothers calve off Brazil in alternate years and that three PV whales traveled to feed in the krill-rich waters in the western South Atlantic off the island of South Georgia. These snapshots in time have been extremely important in delineating the population’s habitat but satellite tracking is allowing us to follow day-to-day movements and understand they make, the paths they follow and if the tags keep transmitting, hopefully, their feeding destinations. I can’t wait to search for the tagged whales in our PV catalogue of 3,000 individuals that have been photographed at PV over the past 44 years and attach life histories to their journeys.”
Over the past decade, southern right whale calves have died in unprecedented numbers (more than 400 between 2003-2011) for reasons still unclear to scientists. Different hypotheses for this mortality have been considered, including disease, certain types of contaminant, and harassment and wounding by kelp gulls, a frequent occurrence in Península Valdés.
This new research will help assess where the whales are feeding, namely if there could be any threats to the whales along their migration route or on their feeding grounds and if the research team can conduct additional tagging and studies to determine any issues associated with food or nutritional stress causing calf loss by some mothers.
Said Mariano Sironi, Scientific Director of the Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas in Argentina: “This project follows the recommendations made by the International Whaling Commission when it analyzed the recent increase in right whale calf mortality in Península Valdés. It is the result of the cooperation between non-governmental organizations, universities and government agencies. The scientific data resulting from this project will provide a new scale to our understanding of southern right whale behavior. Differences in movement patterns among the tagged individuals will certainly be fascinating.”
The deployed tags will transmit the geographical position and behavioral information of the animals up to Earth-orbiting satellites multiple times a day, allowing researchers to follow whales remotely. The researchers selected calving females and solitary juveniles for satellite tagging in order to glean insights into habitat use and migratory movements for different sex and age groups.
Data accumulated thus far reveal unprecedented information for southern right whales: real-time information on long-range movements across marine regions. Two of the five whales have remained in the waters of Golfo Nuevo, while the other three have already left the bay. One of the animals is currently in deep waters of the South Atlantic, one has been spending its time over the continental shelf, and another has moved into deep offshore waters, but has returned to the continental shelf break. Movements from all whales have lead researchers to some areas where the tagged animals are likely feeding, and further discoveries of feeding grounds for this population may be revealed as the team tracks the movements of tagged animals.
Growing up to 55 feet in length and weighing up to 60 tons, the southern right whale is the most abundant species of the world’s three species of right whale. Unlike the North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales (both Endangered), southern rights have managed to rebound from centuries of commercial whaling, with populations that have grown by as much as approximately seven percent annually since 1970. Of the estimated total population of southern right whales found throughout the entire Southern Hemisphere, around one third use the protected bays of Península Valdés as a breeding and calving habitat between the months of June and December.
To celebrate their 25th year of philanthropy, the Annenberg Foundation has named twenty-five of their grantees as “Visionary Leaders” in their fields. The individuals recognized range from conservationists of the wild world, such as Jane Goodall, to activists from the inner city, like Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone, and rural China such as Wu Qing, Founder of the Beijing Cultural Development Center for Rural Women. Included in the list are Ocean Alliance President Roger Payne and CEO Iain Kerr. Read More
This week a group of educators, students and robotics enthusiasts from our home city of Gloucester, Massachusetts met with Iain Kerr and staff at our new Robotics Lab to talk about how this space can be put to use for the benefit of the community. On first entering the new lab a couple of the attendees asked if they could move in. Visitors were able to check out our collection of drones and simulators, and had a nighttime demonstration flight of a drone.
During the day Ocean Alliance is aggressively pursuing projects on a number of different fronts in the field of marine robotics. Working with Olin College we are trying to develop drones that can collect a variety of data from our oceans with minimal effort from the handlers. But having the space open to local students and educators on evening Hobby Nights will add resources and collaboration opportunities to locals with an interest in robotics.
This work is supported in part by a grant from the Applied Material Foundation and the generosity of Antonio Bertone who provided the recycled shipping container that currently houses our lab at the Paint Factory in Gloucester.
A special message from Kim Marshall-Tilas:
To all who helped support the Dolphin Dock!
As of October 23, 2014, Ocean Alliance received approval for the construction and installation of the Dolphin Dock! The process was arduous and required permit approvals from the Conservation Agent, Harbormaster, and Shellfish Warden, as well as a site visit from members of the Waterways Board of Gloucester. The plans submitted were found to be satisfactory and we are free to proceed.
The Dolphin Dock is a true birthday wish come true. I will admit, turning 50 was a bit rough, but thanks to all of you awesome people and your contributions to the Dolphin Dock fund, the big 5-0 was much easier. With your help, we raised enough to meet my goal of $9250. Though I had hoped to have a celebration on the dock before the snow fell, the permitting and construction process was far more in-depth than expected. Fortunately, the dock will be in place early next spring and I hope all of you will join me for a nice ceremony and a belated birthday celebration.
I can’t thank you enough for helping me bring this project to life and for making my birthday so special. I can’t believe I have such wonderful friends. I am truly grateful and wonderfully happy.
Thank you again and again,
Last fall Ocean Alliance President and founder Roger Payne traveled to the whale camp in Argentina that he founded in 1970 for the 43rd season of our Southern Right Whale Program with our partners Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas. He had made the journey this time to welcome a very special guest. Argentine filmmakers Boy Olmi and Dylan Williams had arranged a meeting at Whale Camp between two environmental icons, Jane Goodall and Roger Payne, in order to capture their conversations about their work to conserve whales and chimps, and to protect the environment as a whole from modern threats. The two shared meals, walks, and time with the whales, before returning to Buenos Aires to conduct a live webcast in which they discussed their hopes and fears about the task ahead. Read More