Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oil drilling raises concerns for dolphins' safety

CONCERN for rare dolphins yesterday led to the Moray Firth being excluded from a list of sea areas around Britain being opened up for oil exploration.

John Hutton, the Energy Secretary at Westminster, announced that a record-breaking 2,297 blocks or part blocks in UK waters were being offered to oil companies to investigate.In the last licensing round a number of Moray Firth blocks were put on the market but withdrawn amid concern that drilling might harm the fragile bottlenose dolphin population.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society claimed seismic testing could damage the mammals' hearing, reducing the 130-strong colony's prospects of survival in the Firth.Officials last night confirmed the blocks had now been excluded from the latest round.Mr Hutton said: "We have been careful to avoid harming dolphins and other sealife that thrive in these areas in the past and will continue to do so."The UK's oil and gas industry provides three-quarters of our energy needs and 400,000 jobs, which is why we will continue to support further exploration."

He also announced that following an extensive strategic environmental assessment, blocks to the west of Rockall off the west coast of Scotland had also been excluded.A spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said: "Any licences awarded in the 25th round will contain conditions to protect environmental interests and those of other sea users.

In addition, activities carried out under the licences will be subject to a range of legislation which is designed to protect the marine environment."A spokeswoman for the conservation society gave a cautious welcome to the announcement. But she said the society's experts would be studying the government's announcement in detail before giving a considered response to the proposals.She said: "It may not be as straightforward as we think."

The record number of licences on offer was warmly welcomed by North Sea industry leaders.Malcolm Webb, the chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, the pan-industry trade body, said that with up to 25 billion barrels of oil and gas still to recover from British waters, the new licensing round had provided a wide range of opportunities for companies to find and develop the UK's remaining hydrocarbons.

Rescued dolphin loses final battle

The rough-toothed dolphin that was rescued by the local officials and Ocean Adventure authorities last February 7 in Alaminos, Pangasinan died at around 6 a.m. Thursday.The dolphin, named “Bayanihan" by his handlers, died after doctors noted fast deterioration of its condition.“We’ve done our best to keep Bayanihan, unfortunately, his health deteriorated during the last three days," Francis Maniago of the Marine Mammals operation of Ocean Adventure said.

Two weeks ago, the local government of Alaminos, Pangasinan turned over the stranded dolphin to Ocean Adventure for 24-hour care. The dolphin was found to be suffering from external injuries and was severely emaciated after it was rescued.Maniago said that the dolphin suffered from scoliosis and had parasites in its feces.

“By his length and approximate age, his weight should have been around 100 kilograms, but when we got him from Pangasinan, his was only 56 kilograms," Maniago said, adding that at the time of death, the dolphin weighed 60 kilograms.The animal is currently undergoing necropsy to determine the cause of his death.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Beaching itself is never a good thing for dolphins!

A teen checking out surf conditions Feb. 14 about 4 p.m. onDiamond Beach near Raleigh Avenue discovered a beached Striped Dolphin.

Lower Township Animal Control Officer Don Montgomery responded along withWildwood Crest Police.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine was called. Volunteer DougFord arrived and began placing wet towels on the dolphin, which had bloodygashes on its stomach.

Marine Mammal Stranding Center Director Bob Schoelkopf said the dolphin diedshortly after his staff arrived on scene. The dolphin’s carcass has beenshipped New Bolten Center at the University of Pennsylvania VeterinarySchool in Chester, Pa for a necropsy to determine the cause of death, hesaid.

Schoelkopf said the dolphin was female. The age of the dolphin will bedetermined by the necropsy, he said.

Striped Dolphins are deep-sea animals.

“When they come ashore, it is usually to die or they wash up dead,” saidSchoelkopf.

He said gashes on the dolphin may have come from it scraping along jettiesas it neared the beach. The dolphin would not have come ashore unless it wassick or injured, said Schoelkopf.

The center seeks to train local volunteers to assist in marine mammals.Those interested can contact the center at 609-266-0538 or visit the Website:

Wild dolphins are primal hunters, not only friendly creatures!

Flipper might not be as scary as Jaws, but scientists say they've proved that normally friendly dolphins can also be sharklike indiscriminate killers - even slaughtering their own young.

Film evidence shows that the usually tranquil seafaring mammals are capable of brutal attacks on both their cousin species the porpoise, and on their own kind.

Videos originally taken by vacationers off the coast of Scotland show baby porpoises being rammed, tossed and pursued to their deaths by dolphins.

One sequence seems to show dolphins fishing for salmon - until a closer examination reveals a relentless attack on a porpoise, its body spinning around with such force that its back was broken and its soft tissue shattered.

Four years ago, members of a Scottish marine animal rescue unit witnessed another example of what they described to a British newspaper as "the worst example of inter-specific aggression any of us had ever seen." They said a young female dolphin "literally had the life beaten out of her ..."
The mounting evidence of dolphin aggression has left animal experts baffled as to what provokes the seemingly random acts of brutality.

The behavior has now been observed along Scotland's East Coast and off the beaches of Virginia, where the victims included the dolphins' own young.

Dolphins' increasingly close brushes with tourist boats and beaches have allowed the violence to be be witnessed firsthand. Until recently, dolphin-watchers believed they were watching the mammals at play with their young. Marine experts now believe that these shocking instances of dolphin infanticide and attacks on gentle porpoises may have always taken place.

Dolphins' sanctuary, a good place for breeding!

The national Chambal Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh's Etawah District is a safe haven for dolphins' breeding. The good news for nature lovers is that these intelligent aqua creatures have found the river with ample depth at this place to be a safe haven to breed. Though the present number of dolphins is believed to be 92, it is likely to touch 150 soon as per a survey conducted in February (2007).

Founded in 1979, the Chambal sanctuary was initially formed to protect River Chambal, the vital entity for the entire wild life of the sanctuary. Effective shelter and protection of the dolphins has resulted in their population gradually rising in contrast to what used to be the scenario earlier. "The name of the dolphin is Ganges river dolphin.

Initially, it was found in Ganges and all the linked rivers. But now their habitat has shrunken and is limited to only few rivers. (River) Brahmaputra, Ganges, Chambal are its natural habitats. In these specific rivers, certain number of dolphins are found, which according to me must be around 2,000 to 2,500," said Dr. Rajiv Chauhan, Secretary General, Society for Conservation of Nature.

According to the Forest Department, besides providing a safe home to Ganges river dolphin, the 400 kilometer stretch of crystal clear water of River Chambal also supports marsh crocodiles, smooth-coated otters, half a dozen species of terrapins and turtles and 250 species of birds like Brahmini ducks, common teals, pelicans, flamingoes and cormorants. "Our Chambal sanctuary was basically formed for alligators in 1979.

But now along with alligators, you can also find dolphins and crocodiles which was unusual earlier. But in Chambal Sanctuary, they are well-protected," said Dr. G. Sudhakar, Divisional Forest Officer, Agra Range. As per a census-based survey conducted early this year, the number of dolphins was found to be around 92. "In February (2007), a preliminary survey was conducted as per which the 91 dolphins were sighted.

But we predict more than that would be there since one in deep water couldn't have been counted. We think it should be around 120 to 130 dolphins," added Dr. Sudhakar. Administration at the Chambal Sanctuary is taking steps to protect the endangered species from poachers and local mafia. The administration is required to dispel the fears of the region being a stronghold of dacoits. With this tourism in specified areas can be given a boost.

Bangladesh's river dolphins could become extinct due to pollution and too much activity

Seeing the river dolphins of Bangladesh is not something that is easily forgotten. They rise arc-like and majestic out of the water only inches from boats that ply the rivers of the country's south. In a country where the wildlife population has been denuded because of over-crowding and pollution, dolphins provide visitors with a beautiful and memorable surprise.

But conservationists say they are increasingly concerned over the future of the country's river dolphin population, some of which they warn may even be at risk of extinction. They say that it is rapidly declining because of over-fishing, a shortage of prey, pollution and declining freshwater supplies. 'Isolated' Experts are particularly concerned over the fate of two species - the Ganges river dolphin and the Irrawaddy dolphin whose numbers they say have significantly reduced over the last decade.

"This is probably because of intense human activities - such as farming and fishing - that takes placein their river and near shore water habit," said dolphin expert Elisabeth Fahrni Mansur. Over-fishing is being blamed for the dolphins'' decline"But they are also at risk because of the clumped nature of their overall distribution, which results in a patchwork of relatively small groups demographically isolated from each other."

While Bangladesh currently supports relatively large populations of Ganges river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins, conservationists argue that it's crucial to address the threats they face now, while the potential for long-term survival of both species is still relatively high in comparison to other areas in Asia. While other species such as Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are not currently threatened, their future can by no means be taken for granted.

But it's the Ganges river dolphin and the Irrawaddy dolphin which give the most cause for concern. "The most dire threat to them comes in the form of accidental deaths caused fishing nets," said Ms Mansur. "Fishermen don't target the animals, but when they often become entangled in nets they easily drown because they are breathing mammals. "A more long term threat comes from declining freshwater supplies - primarily due to water extraction upstream in India - and sea-level rises which have led to profound changes to the ecology of their habitat."

The bulk of the country's freshwater dolphin population live in the south-west of the country, especially in the rivers and waterways of the Sunderbans mangrove forest. Rising salinity is killing the animalsExperts point out that these rivers are particularly affected by toxic and industrial waste which is dumped in the water further upstream. "Rising salinity through both climate change and declining freshwater supplies is also a real and a long-term challenge to the ecology of the Sunderbans," said Ms Mansur.

Dolphins in the forest tend to partition themselves according to the level of salinity - Ganges river dolphins for example are found in mangrove channels with high freshwater inputs, while Irrawaddy dolphins live in more salty mangrove channels further downstream. Ominous development Experts say that the level of salinity in these areas is crucial to the survival of the animals and to the livelihoods of over 30,000 fishermen in the Sunderbans. Already at least 11 species of fresh water fish are extinct.

The animals can surprise with their arc-like appearancesIn what many environmentalists see as an ominous development, the finless porpoise - primarily a coastal species - has recently been discovered in the Sunderbans which provides another indication of rising salinity. Steps are now being taken to combat the problem. The Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP) and the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) are proposing a protected area for dolphins, which would consist of three priority sites in the Sunderbans. In addition to monitoring salinity levels, accidental killings of dolphins by fishermen would also be surveyed.

"The idea is that fishermen will be provided with relatively inexpensive global positioning systems and depth sounders, in addition to being trained how to use them so that they can navigate safely to shore during storms," said Ms Mansur. "In return the fishermen would safely release live animals found entangled in their nets, and collect samples and basic information on animalsfound already dead. "But the battle to save these animals is not going to be easy. Salinity and over-fishing are in many respects facts beyond our control. We are the local end of a global battle."

(Source: BBC News, in the Sunderbans of Bangladesh)

Scotland could lose beloved dolphins due to oil drilling

The future of Britain's most famous dolphins is at risk from oil and gas exploration, conservationists say.

The bottlenose dolphins of the Moray Firth in Scotland are the best known and most studied dolphins in the UK. They entertain onlookers with their energetic playing and feeding, and are regularly seen near the shore. In 2005 they were given their own sanctuary under European law.
But the Government says it is "likely" to grant a licence for sub-seabed oil and gas exploration in the sanctuary, which means the dolphins will be seriously disturbed, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). It says that if oil and gas production goes ahead they will face the threats of waste discharge and oil spills.

"The dolphins of the Moray Firth are magnificent and intelligent animals, but they are also incredibly vulnerable. It is unthinkable that the Government should even consider allowing oil and gas into their sanctuary," said Sarah Dolman, who manages the WDCS Moray Firth campaign.

"Oil and gas exploration and development includes intense noise caused by very loud seismic exploration, the placement of rigs and associated pollution and drilling, and finally, in decades to come, the removal of the rigs when the supply is exhausted. Should one licence be allowed, others will surely follow. This means increasing and ongoing disturbance for the dolphins. We do not want this precedent to be set."

She added: "These animals are already facing many threats, including pollution, coastal development, increased boat traffic, food shortage and illegal driftnet fishing. Oil and gas exploration within a habitat vital for their survival could be the straw that breaks the camel's back."
The bottlenose dolphins of the Firth are a small, isolated and vulnerable group – there are only about 130 – which is why a special area of conservation (SAC) under the EU habitats directive was designated in 2005 to protect them in their core habitat. This offers very strong protection under European law.

But seabed exploration blocks in the SAC have been suggested as part of the Government's 24th offshore oil and gas licensing round, when oil companies bid for licences. The Energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, has indicated that they may be granted, after a period of consultation which ends next month.

The Government's argument appears to be that there has been exploration work in the area in the past, which did not seem to harm the dolphins, but conservationists reject this.

"This is a test of whether or not we can have marine wildlife protection", said Mark Simmons, head of science at theWDCS.

"Oil and gas development in an area that has been set specially aside for dolphin protection is entirely inappropriate. I think most people in the world would agree with that." The Moray Firth dolphins are often seen from the shore at Chanonry Point, near Inverness. They survive on a diet of fish.

They animals range from 1.9 metres to four metres long, can weigh up to 650kg, with the dolphins of the Moray Firth being among the largest found anywhere in the world. Each dolphin in the Moray Firth population is individually identifiable by the markings on its dorsal fin. Researchers photograph the animals and later compare the images taken with the catalogue of known dolphins to find out which have been seen, where and with which other dolphins. This builds up a picture of the social structure of the group and also tells us more about the animals' core habitat.

The WDCS wants the public to protest, and is organising an online petition to Mr Wicks in an attempt to halt the development.

A rich variety of rare wildlife

* The Moray Firth is a triangular inlet of the North Sea that cuts into the north-east of Scotland. It is the largest inlet of its type in Scotland and has 500 miles of coastline, much of which is cliff. And given the Firth's rich variety of wildlife (it is an EU special protection area) the coast makes an excellent vantage point for seeing animals rarely seen in or around the UK.

Common dolphins, minke whales and harbour porpoises have all been spotted from the shores of the Firth. Yet it is the bottlenose that causes great excitement. With more than 130 of the animals that can measure up to 4m in length in the area, it is not unusual to be able to see them rising from the icy waters. The creatures have earned added fame in recent years as protection groups have offered the public the chance to "adopt a dolphin".

It is not just wildlife in which the Moray Firth is rich, however. The Beatrice oil field is already established in the outer Firth and, with resources ebbing, developers are looking for other mineral-rich parts of the area to exploit.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Risso dolphin's carcass was discovered on the shore

Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, part of a Conservation Area, is where a Risso’s dolphin’s carcass was washed ashore and reported to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority inspectorate last Saturday. The Risso’s Dolphin is an offshore species and is characterised by a rounded head and large body, growing to about four metres in length.

As part of Malta’s Cetacean Stranding protocol, persons with a specific MEPA permit may assist, examine, measure and collect samples for further research. Cetacean researcher Adriana Vella from the Conservation Biology Research Group (CBRG) of the University of Malta, and members from the Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF), have been collaborating to promote scientific whale and dolphin field research and conservation in Maltese waters and in the Central Mediterranean Region.

As such the collection of data from dead stranded specimens is a reasonable complement to such ongoing local detailed fieldwork. The CBRG also makes use of molecular genetics analyses in its conservation research, and therefore has been collecting tissue samples from local dead stranded cetaceans for population studies in the region towards better understanding the links between various groups residing in the central Mediterranean.

The local merging of both field-work and sophisticated laboratory techniques, allows for maximum efficiency in understanding the conservation needs of these marine mammal species we are still privileged to find in our waters. Dr Vella has run the local long-term field cetacean research in this region of the Mediterranean since 1997, and is the National contact person for the European Cetacean Society and a partner of ACCOBAMS.

Rare dolphin was beaten to death by fishermen

Fishermen in Bangladesh beat a rare river dolphin to death because they had not seen "this kind of creature before," according to local news accounts.

The sun sets over the Ganges River, home to the rare Ganges River dolphin.

The fishermen then tried to sell the body of the Ganges River dolphin as a rare fish. When they failed, the men gave up and dumped it outside a museum -- where a large crowd tried to catch a peek, the national Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news organization reported Tuesday.

Elisabeth Fahrni Mansur, who works with the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project, told CNN that the mammal was trapped in the low waters of a tidal channel.

"It wasn't dumped in front of a museum," Mansur added. "The animal was taken to a visitor center where it will be prepared for an exhibit."

The Ganges River dolphin inhabits the murky waters of the Ganges River and can be spotted only when it surfaces to breathe. Thus, they are very rarely seen, according to the World Wildlife Fund Web site.

Unlike its marine counterpart, these fresh-water dolphins have a pudgy body and an extra-long and sharp-toothed snout. They are almost completely blind probably because of the poor visibility of the waters in the Ganges River, the WWF said.

The World Conservation Union places the total population of the dolphins at 4,000 to 5,000. It classifies the
Ganges River dolphin as an endangered species.

The air-breathing mammals sometimes die after they find themselves stranded in shallow waters, Mansur said. The construction of dams has reduced the flow of fresh water in many parts of

The dolphin population is also dwindling because they sometimes get caught in a fisherman's net.
The fishermen caught the dolphin Monday in Bagerhat, a city near one of the world's largest mangrove forests.

The forests of the Sundarbans -- Bengali for "beautiful forest" -- lies at the delta of the Ganges and two other rivers on the Bay of Bengal

Rare white dolphin visited hydropower station in China

The Chinese white dolphin spotted last Friday around a hydropower station in the Shunde district of Foshan, Guangdong Province, might have returned to the sea, officials and researchers said yesterday.

"We got reports from the local residents Friday morning and started tracking the dolphin that afternoon," Foshan Chief of Fishery Administration Xue Yongxiang said by phone. "But it disappeared on Saturday and we haven't gotten any more reports since then.

"But no news means good news sometimes. It might have returned to the place where it's supposed to be."

The visiting Chinese white dolphin was the first one reported in Shunde in the past 30 years, which was when records started being kept, according to the district's agriculture department.

The district is located along the Xijiang River - an extension of the Pearl River.

Witnesses said the dolphin, later estimated at about 1.8 meters long, performed several leaps in the power station's reservoir. The water acrobatics attracted dozens of passers-by.

The local agricultural authority, public security department and maritime authority issued warnings to the public to not threaten the rare dolphin by getting too close or trying to follow it in boats.

The Chinese white dolphins, which were classified in 1988 as an endangered wild species in China, usually live in the area where sea water and fresh water combine and provide an abundance of food, said Chen Xi, a researcher with the Pearl River Estuary Chinese White Dolphin National Natural Reserve.

The Pearl River estuary is home to about two-thirds of the dolphins found in Chinese waters. The Zhuhai-based natural reserve estimates their numbers in the estuary are between 1,000 and 1,200.
"The dolphin went farther into fresh water this time," Chen said by phone. "It can survive there, but cannot stay for a long time. It might get lost", which has happened in Foshan before.

In response to some media reports saying that the dolphin was forced to seek food in a cleaner fresh-water area due to the worsening pollution in the Pearl River estuary, Chen said there are no apparent signs in this case to draw such a conclusion.

"I am afraid I cannot agree (with those reports) without conducting an on-the-spot investigation," he said.

The deaths of 17 Chinese white dolphins were recorded in the natural reserve's 460 sq km between 2003 and 2006. The deaths have been attributed to pollution and maritime activities such as fishing.

Hong Kong figures indicate the number of dead dolphins found along the coast has gradually increased since 1995, with the annual average at about 10 now.

Striped dolphin had to be euthanized!

A rare striped dolphin had to be put down after it got stranded on a beach in Cornwall.
The male dolphin became stuck at Church Cove, Gunwalloe, near Helston.

Trained volunteers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) organisation thought the animal was in good enough condition to be refloated.

But the animal was put down to avoid it suffering further after a large wound was found on its lower jaw, leaving it at risk of a bone infection.

The dolphin was found lying on the beach not far from the surf and was thought to have been stranded on the outgoing tide.

The only option was to put the animal to sleep
James Barnett, BDMLR

The BDMLR said the mammal looked relatively unscathed at first sight, and volunteers followed their usual procedure of trying to keep the animal as comfortable as possible.

But when its beak was examined, the vet found a flap of skin and underlying tissue had come away, exposing the bone.

BDMLR veterinary coordinator James Barnett said: "If this animal had been released back to the sea with this injury, it is highly likely it would have developed osteomyelitis - infection of the bone - and suffered a great deal.

"The only option was to put the animal to sleep."

Some of the volunteers involved are also members of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Strandings Network (MSN) and they recorded the animal and took photos of it for the Natural History Museum and Institute of Zoology.

They then transported the dolphin to Truro so that a post-mortem examination could be carried out to try to determine why the animal stranded.

"We're really lucky in Cornwall to have two organisations that work so closely together and share a deep concern for dolphins and seals in the county," said Jeff Loveridge of the MSN.

"It's amazing how many people will turn out on a week day to do what they can to help or to learn more about these amazing creatures."

Striped dolphins are acrobatic mammals usually found in tropical and subtropical regions in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"