Pilot whale dies in Thailand with more than 17 pounds of plastic in its stomach

June 5, 2018 by  
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A small male pilot whale, found unable to breath or move in a canal in Thailand  last week, has died from large amounts of plastic clogging its digestive system. After being found near the Malaysia border, the pilot whale was treated by veterinarians while kept afloat by buoys and protected from harmful solar radiation by umbrellas. Despite days of effort, the whale ultimately passed away, but not before vomiting up five plastic bags. Upon post-mortem investigation, it was discovered that the whale had ingested more than 17 pounds of plastic, including 80 shopping bags, which had inhibited its ability to eat. Scientists believe that the pilot whale mistakenly identified plastic as food, eating it until full. “At some point their stomach fills up with trash and they can’t eat real food,” Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director for Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s North American operations, told National Geographic . “You’re not getting any nutrients in and you’ve basically completely clogged your digestive system.” This particular whale’s death is symbolic of a much larger problem plaguing marine life. “We have no idea how many animals aren’t showing up on a beach ,” Asmutis-Silvia said. “This is one pilot whale, this doesn’t consider other species. It’s symbolic at best, but it’s symbolic of an incredibly significant problem.” Related: Orca learns to mimic human speech for the first time About 18 billion pounds of plastic are dumped into oceans each year, while more than 300 marine animal species are known to have been killed by plastic pollution in Thailand’s waters. The Thai government has proposed enacting a tax on plastic bags to reduce the amount of plastic polluting the world’s waters. In addition to policy changes, individuals and communities are encouraged to fight plastic pollution by recycling and reducing their own plastic use. Saving the whales, which are known as the gardeners of the sea for their role in fertilizing oceanic ecosystems, is in humanity’s self interest. “It should be a huge red flag for us as a species,” warned Asmutis-Silvia, “that we need to stop killing ourselves.” Via National Geographic Images via Barney Moss and Ron Knight

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Pilot whale dies in Thailand with more than 17 pounds of plastic in its stomach

Transforming the Aral Sea’s dead zone into a forest could save lives

June 5, 2018 by  
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Once, the Aral Sea provided fish for the Karakalpak people of Uzbekistan . Today, it has dwindled to a mere 10 percent of its old size . Toxic chemicals in the sea bed, now exposed, have endangered human health . But saxaul trees could prevent wind from carrying contaminated sand into the air. Forestation specialist Orazbay Allanazarov told the BBC, “One fully grown saxaul tree can fix up to 10 tonnes of soil around its roots.” The plan is to cover the whole dried sea bed — millions of hectares — with trees. The Aral Sea began withering away in the 1960s as the Soviets diverted water for cotton fields from two main rivers flowing into the sea. As the volume of water in the sea slumped, the concentration of salt increased and poisoned fish. Almas Tolvashev, a former fisherman, told the BBC, “There were 250 ships here. I used to catch 600 to 700 kilos of fish every day. Now there is no sea.” Related: “It has totally changed how people feel:” new forest transforms former UK coal community And it wasn’t just the loss of fish that caused issues. Pesticides and herbicides from cotton plantations ended up in the sea. When it went dry, sandstorms picked up the toxic chemicals exposed on the sea bed and humans inhaled them — with dire consequences. The BBC pointed to one study that discovered the incidents of liver cancer doubled from 1981 to 1991. Locals experienced reduced fertility, stunted growth, elevated rates of cancer and heart and lung problems. Authorities didn’t acknowledge the Aral Sea’s disappearance until after the Soviet Union’s fall. Saxaul trees, a shrub-like tree native to central Asia’s deserts, are able to survive in salty, dry soil, and they could offer an answer. Workers have covered around half a million hectares of the desert with the trees — but there are more than three million hectares to go. The BBC said it could take 150 years to cultivate a forest at the current pace, but there’s hope the trees could improve quality of life for the Karakalpak people. “We are slow,” Allanazarov said. “We need to speed up the process. But for this we need more money, more foreign investment.” Via the BBC Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Hunters killed 122 pregnant minke whales

May 31, 2018 by  
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Hunters in Japan recently killed 122 pregnant minke whales  as part of a so-called field survey, the BBC reported . The hunters caught the whales for scientific study — even though in 2014 the United Nations ruled against the country’s “lethal research.” The whale meat collected for research is sold for consumption. Japan’s New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A) sent a report to the International Whaling Commission for its “third biological field survey.” The hunters caught 333 Antarctic minke whales. 181 were females, and 67 percent of those were pregnant, while 29 percent of the whales were not yet adults. The team caught the animals within 12 weeks before heading back to Japan. Related: A spike in tailless whale sightings worries scientists Humane Society International Senior Program Manager Alexia Wellbelove said in a statement , “The killing of 122 pregnant whales is a shocking statistic and sad indictment on the cruelty of Japan’s whale hunt . It is further demonstration, if needed, of the truly gruesome and unnecessary nature of whaling operations, especially when non-lethal surveys have been shown to be sufficient for scientific needs.” Japan’s whaling program has been subject to controversy over the years; the UN’s International Court of Justice ruled the JARPA II program was illegal in 2014, but the country relaunched its program in 2015, the Humane Society said. The country withdrew its recognition of the UN court “as an arbiter of disputes over whales.” Governments of “Australia, New Zealand, Britain, the U.S. and everywhere else sit on their hands and say this criminal behavior is okay because the Japanese government is funding it,” Bob Brown, former Australian politician and founder of the Bob Brown Foundation , told The Telegraph . “The leaders who are today failing to take action have the blood of these innocent whales on their hands. This is an international disgrace and an environmental crime.” Japan says it follows Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that rules countries can “kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research.” The agreement was signed in 1946. + Humane Society International Australia Via the BBC and The Telegraph Images via National Marine Sanctuaries  and Kobakou

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Hunters killed 122 pregnant minke whales

Flawed recycling results in dangerous chemicals in black plastic

May 31, 2018 by  
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Unsafe recycling of electronic waste has resulted in the distribution of dangerous chemicals into new products made out of black plastic . Published in Environment International , a new study documents the presence of bromide and lead in 600 consumer products made out of black plastic and clarifies its potential negative impact on human and ecological health. “There are environmental and health impacts arising from the production and use of plastics in general, but black plastics pose greater risks and hazards,” explained study lead author Andrew Turner in a statement . “This is due to the technical and economic constraints imposed on the efficient sorting and separation of black waste for recycling, coupled with the presence of harmful additives required for production or applications in the electronic and electrical equipment and food packaging sectors.” Although black plastics compose fifteen percent of domestic plastic waste in the United States , they are particularly difficult to recycle. As a result, hazardous chemicals that were originally used as flame retardants or for color are being processed back into new products. “Black plastic may be aesthetically pleasing, but this study confirms that the recycling of plastic from electronic waste is introducing harmful chemicals into consumer products,” explained Turner. “That is something the public would obviously not expect, or wish, to see and there has previously been very little research exploring this.” Related: Biotech company Nanollose could offer plant-free alternatives for the textile industry Of particular concern is black plastic’s wide usage in food service, with the majority of black plastic being used in food trays or packaging. The black plastic also risks poisoning marine life as its dangerous chemicals seep into the ocean through microplastics. However, the presence of dangerous chemicals, such as the potentially cancer-causing bromine, is not limited to food products; it is also found in plastic jewelry, garden hoses, Christmas decorations, coat hangers and tool handles at high, and possibly even illegal, levels. Given the health risks, the industry must reform. “[T]here is also a need for increased innovation within the recycling industry to ensure harmful substances are eliminated from recycled waste and to increase the recycling of black plastic consumer products,” said Turner. Via Ecowatch Image via Depositphotos

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A spike in tailless whale sightings worries scientists

May 8, 2018 by  
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People have occasionally glimpsed tailless whales in western North America, but a recent spike in sightings has troubled scientists. This year alone, at least three flukeless gray whales have been spotted near California. Ship collisions or killer whale attacks probably aren’t to blame for the injuries; entanglement in fishing equipment is likely the cause. National Geographic reported that when whales are feeding in areas with debris, man-made objects or fishing gear, nets or ropes can get stuck at their tail’s base, slowly sawing off their flukes. Ropes and nets can also cut off blood circulation, causing a whale’s tail to wither away. Entangled whales may not survive, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ‘s (NOAA) California stranding network coordinator Justin Viezbecke. “The majority of them — if not all of them — are going to most likely die from these injuries,” Viezbecke said. Related: Unusually high number of humpback whale deaths prompts NOAA inquiry Losing a tail makes life difficult for whales. Feeding becomes a challenge; the limb serves as a propeller as they navigate to the seafloor and seek out crustaceans. The long migration from Mexico birthing grounds to Arctic feeding grounds can also be hard without a tail. Flukeless mother whales are less capable of defending their babies from killer whales . According to whale biologist Alisa Schulman-Janiger, some whales can adapt to the handicap. Brooke Palmer — who posted a YouTube video of a tailless whale near Newport Beach, California earlier this year — said in the video description that the whale was doing “seemingly well as it adapted to the loss of an integral limb. It is sad, but inspirational how resilient and adaptive these beautiful mammals can be.” The increase in tailless gray whale sightings matches up with what National Geographic called a general increase in whale entanglements. There was an average of 10 incidents a year between 2000 and 2012, but in 2017, there were 31 incidents, according to NOAA whale disentangler Pieter Folkens. Folkens said the reason behind the rise is unknown, although it could be possible that people are better at spotting the whales. Via National Geographic Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Plastic-fishing group in Amsterdam turns trash into contemporary furniture

March 12, 2018 by  
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If we remove plastic from the world’s waterways, what happens to it next? Amsterdam -based Plastic Whale , the “first professional plastic-fishing company in the world” according to founder Marius Smit , came up with a creative answer: circular furniture . They teamed up with LAMA Concept and Vepa to design the Plastic Whale Circular Furniture collection, all of which is made with trash fished from the city’s canals. Plastic Whale takes thousands of people plastic fishing in Amsterdam’s canals every year, removing tons of plastic trash, according to their video. They’ve created fishing boats out of plastic collected and then decided to make something new with the garbage: office furniture. They enlisted the help of design firm LAMA Concept to design the pieces, and furniture manufacturer Vepa to produce and sell them. Related: Pentatonic launches new brand of modern furniture made with nothing but trash They’ve created a boardroom table , chairs , a lamp , and an acoustic panel. Vepa director Janwillem de Kam said in a statement , “For the manufacture of the furniture we use PET bottles that have been collected by Plastic Whale. We also melt steel waste into the base of the chair. We are fast moving towards a waste-free factory and even ensure that we process the waste from others in this collection.” Plastic Whale said they also utilize residual fabrics for the chair. LAMA Concept co-owner Yvonne Laurysen said they were inspired by whales for the furniture’s designs : “Think, for example, of the look and feel of the characteristic skin, the adipose tissue, and the impressive skeleton.” Surfacing whales inspired the boardroom table’s appearance, the chairs got their look from the shape of a whale’s tail, barnacles provided inspiration for the lamp, and a whale’s bellow offered the spark for the acoustic panels. When a customer is done with the furniture, they can return it to Vepa, which will create new pieces and even return a deposit. The furniture can be ordered via exclusive dealers with prices available on request; you can email Vepa for more information. Some of the proceeds will go to organizations fighting the plastic problem like SweepSmart in India. You can find out more about Plastic Whale’s collection here . + Plastic Whale + Vepa + LAMA Concept Images via LAMA Concept and courtesy of Vepa

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Hundreds of people come together to save beached whale in Brazil

August 25, 2017 by  
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A beached whale is a tragic sight – but a community of sun-worshippers in Brazil refused to sit by when it happened on their beach. Hundreds of people rallied around a stranded humpback whale in Buzios, digging around the animal in hopes of saving its life. They spent hours trying to save the whale, and were rewarded with the return of high tide. A humpback whale was recently stranded on the beach of Praia Rasa in Buzios, and people on the beach jumped into action. They tossed water and dug around the whale to keep it alive for hours. Biologists on site said the whale was young, weighed as much as 15 tons, and was around 45 feet long. Related: Hundreds of whales die in New Zealand’s third largest mass stranding When high tide returned, the whale was at last able to leave the beach. A Buzios City Hall spokesperson said the whale found its way back to the ocean . Amateur video footage shows crowds of people standing on the beach watching the whale reenter the water. We don’t fully understand why whales strand themselves, although several reasons have been suggested. University of Aberdeen professor David Lusseau published a piece on The Conversation detailing some of these reasons, like that whales beach themselves because they are injured or sick, or have become disoriented. They also might behave differently if food stocks plunge, temperatures are strangely low or high, or if pollutants seep into the water. Lusseau said often whales that are returned to the ocean will re-strand themselves hours or days later (especially if they were ill) – but some whales are able to escape. If you come across a beached whale, the charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation said your first response should be to call an expert for help – many countries have stranding networks that can help ensure the whale is treated correctly. Via The Telegraph Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot

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NOAA has a plan to protect the oceans from troubling noise pollution

June 28, 2016 by  
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As if the world’s marine animals didn’t have enough to worry about — with climate change , ocean acidification, and overfishing threatening their existence — emerging research over the past several decades has also suggested that devastating “noise pollution” could be invisibly destroying their habitats. Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a first of its kind roadmap for researching and managing the impact of ocean noise on marine life. Why is this so important? We’ve learned in recent decades that marine animals rely on sound to communicate with one another, navigate the waters, and generally understand their surroundings. Human activity, such as shipping, industrial work, and military exercises, can make it impossible for these majestic creatures to hear the sounds of the ocean that they rely upon to live. While research has largely focused on the impact this activity has on endangered whales , marine ecologists believe it could affect a much wider variety of organisms, including shrimp, crabs, and sea urchins. The truth is that scientists don’t really understand the scope of the problem, or how many species might be negatively impacted by human-generated noise. Global warming is also exacerbating the problem : sound travels both faster and farther through warm water, meaning that as the sea’s temperature rises, the ocean becomes noisier. NOAA has taken steps in the past to try to mitigate the impact of noise pollution on endangered species and marine mammals, but until now has handled these instances on a case-by-case basis. Mostly, this involved stopping noisy activities for a few moments when whales were spotted near work sites. This may be mildly helpful at the time, but it doesn’t address the cumulative and pervasive pollutant that noise has become. Related: Study Confirms Mass Stranding of Whales Caused by Sonar Mapping The new strategy calls for better protection of the natural soundscape within National Marine Sanctuaries, better use of NOAA’s resources to monitor noise pollution in US waters, better enforcement of marine mammal and endangered species regulations, and the promotion of quieter technologies. The last item is really key to this plan’s success, and might just have the side effect of promoting more sustainable, greener technologies. Right now, the strategy is simply a draft , and has not formally been adopted. The public is invited to submit comments on the new policies through July 1, 2016. Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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This beached orca died with a stomach full of garbage

December 31, 2015 by  
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Local residents were delighted when a young female orca appeared near Plettenberg Bay in South Africa earlier this month, coming together to rescue the whale when she was found beached on the shore. Unfortunately, the joy of the rescue was short-lived. Only a week later, the orca was found dead . When researchers performed an autopsy to find out what killed the whale, they found her stomach was full of plastic and garbage. Read the rest of This beached orca died with a stomach full of garbage

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Nine dead fin whales discovered off the coast of Alaska and no one knows what is killing them

June 23, 2015 by  
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In just the last month, nine fin whale carcasses have been discovered in Alaska, and no one knows what is killing them.  The endangered fin whales’ numbers hover in the tens of thousands, so any die off is significant, but since May of this year, nine dead fin whales have been discovered in the water between Kodiak and Unimak Pass, and there is no obvious cause. Kate Wynne, a marine mammal specialist at the University of Alaska said that the event seems to have occurred around Memorial Day weekend and is surprising since it’s rare to spot more than one fin whale carcass every couple of years. Read the rest of Nine dead fin whales discovered off the coast of Alaska and no one knows what is killing them Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: alaska fin whales , algae bloom , dead fin whales , endangered fin whales , fin whales dying , fin whales in kodiak , marine mammals , west coast algae bloom , whale deaths in Alaska , whales

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