White Orca on the loose in Russia

It appears Captain Ahab can finally rest easy. Scientists in Russia, possibly after reading Melville’s classic, have taken up the mantle of searching for an all-white adult killer whale named Iceberg.

white-orcaThe animal was initially spotted by researchers in 2010 when they saw the orca’s six foot tall dorsal fin break the surface of the water of the North Pacific.

“This is the first time we have ever seen an all-white, mature male orca,” said Erich Hoyt, co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP). “It is a breathtakingly beautiful animal.”

As orcas can travel thousands of miles, the search for Iceberg has been long and arduous. Scientists are trying to establish whether Iceberg is an albino, a genetic condition that blocks the production of pigment in the body and severely damages vision. These traits make it nearly impossible for albino animals to survive in the wild, let alone mature into adulthood.

“We want to find out more about Iceberg,” said Hoyt. “We would like to find out how he is able to survive as a white whale.”

Written by Irish Emigrant

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Judge dismisses suit to free orca from captivity

A federal judge in Seattle has dismissed a lawsuit aimed at freeing the killer whale Lolita from captivity at Miami Seaquarium.msq1-lolita-gate11

Judge Benjamin H. Settle last week ruled that orca activists who sued the federal government didn’t give proper notice and failed to state a valid claim. He granted motions by the government and Seaquarium to dismiss the case.

Lolita has been performing at Seaquarium since she was captured from Puget Sound waters in 1970.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and three individuals sued the National Marine Fisheries Service in November, saying it should have protected Lolita when it listed other Puget Sound orcas as endangered in 2005.

The groups say they’ll continue to fight for Lolita’s release. Seaquarium has said Lolita is healthy and well-cared for.

Written by The Seattle Times

Dolphins Lead ‘Complicated’ Social Lives

bottlenose_dolphinIn what can only be described as “West Side Story” meets “Flipper,” scientists say they’ve discovered that male bottlenose dolphins break out into gangs to protect their females.

The researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, studied more than 120 adult dolphins, with a focus on the males, during a five-year period in Shark Bay, western Australia.

Their findings were published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B.

Richard Connor, a co-author and biology professor who has studied these particular dolphins for more than 20 years, said male dolphins’ social lives were intense.

“It seems there is constant drama. I have often thought, as I watched their complicated alliance relationships, that their social lives would be mentally and physically exhausting,” he told Discovery News. “I’m glad I’m not a dolphin.”

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Dolphin in Wetlands May Have Been Chased There, Rescuer Says

A dolphin that has made a temporary home in shallow waters off Southern California’s coast may have been forced there by a brutish band of other dolphins, says a wildlife expert who tried to steer it toward open water this weekend.

“He was scared. He was intimidated. He was bullied,” Peter Wallerstein, director of El Segundo-based Marine Animal Rescue, told The Los Angeles Times.

On Friday morning, the black-and-white common dolphin was found swimming in circles 12 feet from the shore in the Bolsa Chica wetlands south of Los dolphin_bullied_huntington_beachAngeles. Officials told ABC News affiliate KABC Friday that the dolphin appeared disoriented and stressed and could be at risk of suffocating in the low waters.

Wallerstein said Monday that when wildlife rescue crews had tried to help the dolphin move back into the ocean Saturday, a group of dolphins appeared, thrashing around and attacking the loner. Wallerstein said the dolphin eventually retreated back into the channel.

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Cause of 3,000 Dolphin Deaths in Peru Likely to Remain a Mystery

Since mid-January, an estimated 3,000 dolphins have been found dead along the shores of northern Peru, in what has become one of the largest marine mammal dolphin-perumortality events ever reported.

Thus far, no cause has been determined, although evidence of middle- and inner-ear damage, lung lesions and bubbles in the blood are consistent with acoustic impact and decompression syndrome, leading to speculation that oil exploration in the region may be to blame.

In a statement released earlier this month, BPZ Energy confirmed that it was conducting acoustical, seismic studies in the area, but that the dolphin deaths began more than 2 weeks before exploratory activity commenced.

In the majority of large marine mammal strandings, no definitive cause is found – in part, because multiple factors are frequently at work. Toxic pollutants, for example, might weaken an animal’s immune system, making it more vulnerable to bacterial or viral infection. Persistent organic pollutants that accumulate in organisms further down the food web also tend to become more concentrated in top predators such as dolphins.

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Tar-sand risks threaten health of Puget Sound

The risk from tar sands is too high for local and state agencies to allow these synthetic oils and raw materials increasingly to flow into Washington refineries, say a group of environmentalists concerned about the health of Puget Sound.

LOST in the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline is the reality that we have already seen a steady uptick in the flow of tar sands feed stocks — “synthetic oil” or the raw material for it — to our five Washington refineries by pipelines or from tankers transiting the Salish Sea. And there are plans on the books for much, much more.

Kinder Morgan — a multinational company also trying to build a coal-export facility on the Columbia River — intends to more than double the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, B.C., while deepening its port there to utilize tankers larger than those allowed to enter Washington waters. Should a spill occur, the international boundary in the Strait of Juan de Fuca won’t be much of a barrier to the toxic spread from these larger vessels.

US agency stops seismic energy tests in Gulf out of concern for ailing dolphins during calving

NEW ORLEANS — With sick and dead dolphins turning up along Louisiana’s coast, federal regulators are curbing an oil and natural gas exploration company from doing seismic tests known to disturb marine mammals.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has told Global Geophysical Services Inc. to not conduct deep-penetration seismic surveys off the Louisiana coast until May when the bottlenose dolphin calving season ends. The agency says the surveys are done with air-guns that can disrupt mother and calf bonding.

The company says it laid off about 30 workers because of the restriction, which it called unnecessary.

Environmental groups are suing BOEM over the use of underwater seismic equipment and say the restrictions should be extended to surveyors across the Gulf of Mexico.

Written by The Associated Press

Speak Out for Better Protections for Captive Orcas!

Lolita is a solitary orca who has been confined to a tiny concrete tank at the Miami Seaquarium for more than 40 years. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides members of the wild Southern Resident orca population and other endangered animals with a host of protections, including protection against being harmed or harassed. Yet, despite being a member of the Southern Residents, Lolita has been denied all of these protections without any explanation by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

The government’s failure to provide Lolita with the protections enjoyed by the wild members of her pod has enabled the Miami Seaquarium to keep her in conditions that violate the Endangered Species Act. Lolita must be granted the protections under federal law which she is rightfully due and which best ensure her survival and well-being, which—depending on her condition—could include transferring her to a sea pen in her home waters and releasing her back to her family pod.

In the wild, orcas live in tight family units with bonds that may last a lifetime. At Seaquarium, Lolita swims endless circles in a small, barren tank that does not comply with USDA regulations. This highly intelligent and social animal has been without an orca companion since 1980.

Sign ALDF’s petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service, urging them to include captive members of Lolita’s Southern Resident pod in ESA protections.

Written by Animal Legal Defense Fund

Male dolphins are bisexual, say boffins

MALE dolphins’ complex social lives include spending time in bisexual and gay relationships, scientists have found.

Researchers studying 120 bottlenose dolphins found the males made a series of alliances with the same sex.They also formed gangs between four and 14-strong in Shark Bay, Western Australia.dolfijnen

Richard Connor, of the University of Massachusetts, US, said: “I work on the male dolphins and their social lives are very intense. It seems there is constant drama.”

Females, in contrast, do not form any strong friendships.

There was only one observation of females forming a temporary coalition against young males, the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B reports.

Most animals form alliances to defend their territory. But the study did not find any evidence of this. Instead the male dolphins appeared to live in a society without boundaries. The mammals paired and teamed up for a time, before splitting apart and switching between male and female partners.

Written by The SUN

Major concerns about orca Morgan’s health

The Orca Coalition is very shocked by the photos of orca Morgan that were recently published. On the photos you can see deep flesh wounds on her head, the result of an attack by one of the other orcas in the park on Tenerife where she was transported to in croblesDecember. The photos that were recently published by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) are in stark contrast with the recent positive reports in the media about Morgan.

“The photographs remind us of the very scared Tekoa, one of the other orcas in the park, from which we showed photos in court.” Said Barbara van Genne, marine biologist and spokesperson for the Orca Coalition. “The safety of Morgan already caused us great concerns before the move. Our fear became reality. This photograph confirms that Morgan cannot be protected against the attacks of the aggressive orcas in the Spanish park. The only solution is to keep her and Adan, the other young orca who is also regularly attacked, separated. This is definitely not a healthy situation for a wild orca who is accustomed to living in large family groups. “

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