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ข่าววาฬต่างประเทศ - International

Photos show Japanese whaling off Antarctica, group says

Australia has sharply criticised Japan after photos emerged allegedly showing it had resumed whaling off Antarctica. Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd released the images, which it said showed a dead minke whale on a Japanese vessel on Sunday. It comes two days after Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Sydney to bolster defence ties with Australia. Australia's Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said it was not necessary to kill whales for study. "The Australian Government is deeply disappointed that Japan has decided to return to the Southern Ocean this summer to undertake so-called 'scientific' whaling,'" he said on Monday. "Australia is opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called 'scientific' whaling." Japan's whaling has been ruled illegal by the Australian Federal Court.

  • Why is Japan still whaling?
  • The legalities of hunting whales

  • A global moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since 1985, with exemptions that allowed Japan to hunt some whales for "scientific research". But in 2014 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Japan's scientific Antarctic whaling programme should cease. Tokyo suspended whaling for one season but announced it would soon
    begin another "scientific" whaling programme, drawing criticism from environmental groups and the Australian and UK governments. Japan insists it is trying to prove the whale population is large enough to justify a return to whaling for commercial purposes. It says it has to kill the mammals and study them in order to carry out its research. Australian Greens senator Nick McKim said the ICJ had the power to impose "fines or sanctions" on Japan. Latest claims Sea Shepherd said the photos showed the Japanese vessel Nisshin Maru inside the Australian Whale Sanctuary on Sunday. The boat's crew "scrambled" to cover the dead whale with a tarpaulin after spotting the anti-whaling group's helicopter, Sea Shepherd said. Two smaller boats, the Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru #2, also covered their harpoons, the group claimed. "The fact that the Japanese crew went to cover up their harpoons and the dead minke whale on deck just shows that they know what they're doing is wrong," said Wyanda Lublink, captain of Sea Shepherd ship the MY Steve Irwin. Sea Shepherd said it was the first minke slaughter to be documented since the ICJ ruling.
    Sea Shepherd has been patrolling the Southern Ocean for five weeks. Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, said the Australian government should do more to protect whales.

    Humpback whales around the globe are mysteriously rescuing animals from orcas

    Humans might not be the only creatures that care about the welfare of other animals. Scientists are beginning to recognize a pattern in humpback whale behavior around the world, a seemingly intentional effort to rescue animals that are being hunted by killer whales.

    Marine ecologist Robert Pitman observed a particularly dramatic example of this behavior back in 2009, while observing a pod of killer whales hunting a Weddell seal trapped on an ice floe off Antarctica. The orcas were able to successfully knock the seal off the ice, and just as they were closing in for the kill, a magnificent humpback whale suddenly rose up out of the water beneath the seal.

    This was no mere accident. In order to better protect the seal, the whale placed it safely on its upturned belly to keep it out of the water. As the seal slipped down the whale's side, the humpback appeared to use its flippers to carefully help the seal back aboard. Finally, when the coast was clear, the seal was able to safely swim off to another, more secure ice floe

    Another event, involving a pair of humpback whales attempting to save a gray whale calf from a hunting pod of orcas after it had become separated from its mother, was captured by BBC filmmakers. You can watch the dramatic footage here:

    Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this behavior is that it's not just a few isolated incidents. Humpback whale rescue teams have been witnessed foiling killer whale hunts from Antarctica to the North Pacific. It's as if humpback whales everywhere are saying to killer whales: pick on someone your own size! It seems to be a global effort; an inherent feature of humpback whale behavior.

    After witnessing one of these events himself back in 2009, Pitman was compelled to investigate further. He began collecting accounts of humpback whales interacting with orcas, and found nothing short of 115 documented interactions, reported by 54 different observers between 1951 and 2012. The details of this surprising survey can be found in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

    In 89 percent of the recorded incidents, the humpbacks seemed to intervene only as the killer whales began their hunt, or when they were already engaged in a hunt. It seems clear from the data that the humpback whales are choosing to interact with the orcas specifically to interrupt their hunts. Among the animals that have been observed being rescued by humpback whales were California sea lions, ocean sunfish, harbor seals, and gray whales

    So the question is: Why are humpback whales doing this? Since the humpbacks seem to be risking their own well being to save animals of completely different species, it's hard to deny that this behavior seems altruistic.

    There is also some reason to believe that the behavior isn't entirely selfless. Mature humpback whales are too large and too formidable to be hunted by orcas themselves, but their calves are vulnerable. Orcas have been witnessed hunting humpback whale calves in much the same way that they hunt gray whale calves. So, by proactively foiling orca hunts, perhaps the humpbacks are hoping to make them think twice about messing with their own calves.

    Then again, maybe it's just as simple as revenge. Even if it has more to do with revenge than altruism, though, the behavior would represent evidence of an intense and complicated emotional life among humpbacks that is unprecedented in the animal world, outside of primates.

    One common feature among many humpback whale rescue efforts is that the humpbacks often work in pairs. Scientists will need to do more research into this behavior, though, to truly understand the significance of it.

    Until then, these beautiful animals, which are perhaps best known for their majestic songs, have certainly earned some additional respect. They might just be the ocean's most ferocious and selfless first-responders.

    New whale species confirmed in Pacific Ocean

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Genetic tests confirm that a mysterious, unnamed species of beaked whale only rarely seen alive by Japanese fishermen roams the northern Pacific Ocean, according to research published this week.

    The testing shows the black whales, with bulbous heads and beaks like porpoises, are not dwarf varieties of more common Baird’s beaked whales, a slate-grey animal.

    Japanese researchers sampled three black beaked whales that washed up on the north coast of Hokkaido, the country’s most northern island, and wrote about them in a 2013 paper. The challenge to confirm the existence of the new animal was finding enough specimens from a wider area for testing and matching genetic samples, said Phillip Morin, a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration research molecular biologist.

    He and his team uncovered five other whales, all found in Alaska, that matched the species found in Japan.

    “Clearly this species is very rare and reminds us how much we have to learn about the ocean and even some of its largest inhabitants,” he said in an announcement.

    The largest beaked whale varieties can reach 40 feet and spend up to 90 minutes underwater hunting for squid in deep water. They are hard to research because they may spend only a few minutes at the surface, Morin said by phone Thursday. They rarely breach, travel in small numbers and blend into their surroundings.

    Japanese fishermen reported occasionally seeing a smaller, black beaked whale that they called “karasu,” the Japanese word for raven, or “kuru tsuchi,” black Baird’s beaked whale.

    The Japanese researchers in 2013 were limited in declaring that they had found a new species because their three samples were from one location, said Morin, who works at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Research Center in San Diego.

    “My first idea was to go to our collection, where we have the largest collection of cetacean samples in the world,” he said.

    In a paper published Tuesday in the journal Marine Mammal Science, Morin and fellow authors describe analyzing 178 beaked whale specimens from around the Pacific Rim. They found five that matched with the Japanese whales.

    The oldest was a skull in the Smithsonian Institution recovered from the Aleutians in 1948 and formerly thought to be a Baird’s beaked whale. Another specimen discovered in Alaska was in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

    The Southwest Fisheries Science Center had tissue from a whale found floating in the Bering Sea. It also had tissue from a black beaked whale stranded on Unalaska Island in the Aleutians in 2004. Local teachers and students had photographed and measured the animal, and its skeleton was put on display at Unalaska High School.

    The most recent was a 24-foot, adult specimen that washed up in 2014 on St. George Island, in the Bering Sea. Residents notified Michelle Ridgeway, a marine ecologist with Oceanus Alaska, who documented the animal.

    “We knew it was not any whale we knew from our area,” Ridgway said in the announcement.

    Little is known about the range of the new species, although the St. George Island whale give a clue. The whale had scars from cookie-cutter sharks, which live in tropical waters and bite flesh from larger creatures, like a cookie cutter out of dough.

    Morin said scientists have more questions than answers about the new species, which is about two-thirds the size of a Baird’s beaked whale.

    “They’re hard to see, especially if the water is anything but perfectly calm,” he said, adding that acoustic research may help find them so they can be studied.

    Japanese researchers are in the formal process of “describing” the species, Morin said. That will include giving the whale a Latin and common name and formally defining its measurements and how it differs from other beaked whales.

    Mysterious New Whale Species Discovered in Alaska

    Scientists say a dead whale on a desolate beach and a skeleton hanging in a high school gym are a new species. Yet experts have never seen one alive.

    This whale washed up dead on Alaska's St. George Island in June 2014. Scientists say it is a newly discovered species of beaked whale.

    Like many good mysteries, this one started with a corpse, but the body in question was 24 feet (7.3 meters) long.

    The remains floated ashore in June of 2014, in the Pribilof Islands community of St. George, a tiny oasis of rock and grass in the middle of Alaska's Bering Sea. A young biology teacher spotted the carcass half-buried in sand on a desolate windswept beach. He alerted a former fur seal researcher who presumed, at first, that she knew what they'd found: a Baird's beaked whale, a large, gray, deep-diving creature that occasionally washes in dead with the tide.

    But a closer examination later showed that the flesh was too dark, the dorsal fin too big and floppy. The animal was too short to be an adult, but its teeth were worn and yellowed with age.

    It turns out, according to new research published Tuesday, that this was not a Baird's beaked whale at all, but an entirely new species—a smaller, odd-shaped black cetacean that Japanese fishermen have long calledkarasu, or raven.

    "We don't know how many there are, where they're typically found, anything," says Phillip Morin, a molecular geneticist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Southwest Fisheries Science Center. "But we're going to start looking."

    It’s rare to uncover a new species of whale. Advances in DNA research have helped scientists identify five new cetaceans in the past 15 years but two were dolphins and most were simple category splits between fairly similar species. This animal, in the genus Berardius, looks far different than its nearest relative and inhabits an area of the North Pacific where marine mammal research has been conducted for decades.

    It's just so exciting to think that in 2016 we're still discovering things in our world—even mammals that are more than 20 feet long.

    Phil Morin | NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center

    "It's a really big deal," says study co-author Paul Wade of NOAA'sNational Marine Mammal Laboratory. "If you think about it, on land, discovery of new species of large mammals is exceptionally rare. It just doesn't happen very often. It's quite remarkable."

    Skeletons, Beaks, and Bone Powder

    Morin and his team examined the St. George carcass, took bone powder from old museum specimens, and reviewed DNA tests of whales from the Sea of Okhotsk. They studied skulls and beaks and analyzed records from whaling fleets in Japan. They even tracked down a skeleton hanging from the ceiling in a high school gymnasium in the Aleutian Islands.

    The scientists conclude in their study published in Marine Mammal Science that this type of whale, which has not yet been named, is nearly as far removed genetically from the Northern Hemisphere's Baird's beaked whales as it is from its closest known relative, Arnoux's beaked whales, which swim in the Antarctic Ocean. The differences, in fact, are so dramatic that the animal has to be something else, they say.

    "It's just so exciting to think that in 2016 we're still discovering things in our world—even mammals that are more than 20 feet long," Morin says.

    He is not alone in his enthusiasm. Robert Pitman serves on a taxonomy committee for the Society for Marine Mammalogy, which publishes an annual list of all recognized marine mammal species. He is not among the 16 co-authors on Morin's paper. But at a time when the diversity of marine mammals is shrinking—the Yangtze River dolphin is nowfunctionally extinct and Mexico’s vaquita porpoise is dangerously close—Pitman calls the discovery "heartening."

    "It boggles my mind to think that a large, very different-looking whale has gone unnoticed by the scientific community for so long," Pitman says. "It sends a clear message about how little we know about what is in the ocean around us."

    The discovery also raises new questions about how well humans are understanding the threats posed by marine activities, from energy exploration to sonar use, given that so few people even knew such a creature existed.

    Of the 88 recognized living cetacean species, including orcas and humpbacks, bottlenose dolphins and Dall's porpoises, 22 are beaked whales. The largest of those, Baird's beaked whales, also called giant bottlenose whales, can reach 35 to 40 feet (10.7 to 12 meters) and weigh more than 24,000 pounds (10,900 kilograms). They travel in large groups, may dive 3,000 feet (914 meters), and can be underwater for an hour. While beaked whales are still hunted in Japan, little about them is known. In part that’s because they spend so much time feeding and exploring vast, deep canyons far from shore.

    When Christian Hagenlocher on St. George, a 35-square-mile (91-square-kilometer) island inhabited by 100 people, frequented by hundreds of thousands of seals, and visited by 2.5 million birds, pointed out the dead whale in Zapadni Bay to former seal researcher Karin Holser, she thought it was a Baird's beaked whale. But later, as tides and currents revealed more of the animal, Holser realized she didn't recognize it at all. She consulted a colleague's cetacean identification book and sent pictures to other experts in Alaska.

    "This dorsal fin was larger, further aft, and had more curvature than that of a Baird's beaked whale," says independent ecologist Michelle Ridgway, who arrived on the island days later. "The jaw structure and the shape of the melon were not quite right, either.” And this whale, while clearly an adult, was just two-thirds the size of full-grown Baird’s beaked whales.

    Holser and other island residents measured the whale. Ridgway collected tissue, arranging to ship the slightly fetid samples through intermediaries to Morin's lab in Southern California.

    Morin was intrigued.

    Just nine months earlier, he'd spied new research by Japanese scientists attempting to describe differences between Baird's beaked whales and a rare black form that whalers had whispered about since the 1940s. Groups of these smaller whales were sometime spotted in Japan’s Nemuro Strait, but only between April and June. There was no record of scientists ever seeing one alive.

    "They're almost folklore," Morin says.

    The Japanese scientists had speculated in fall of 2013 that this may be an unknown species of beaked whale. But they were forced to draw conclusions from DNA taken from just three of the creatures that had stranded off Hokkaido. They concluded more evidence was needed.

    Even before receiving the samples from St. George, Morin had been trying to hunt down more specimens.

    He went through NOAA's tissue collection, pulling all 50 or so that had previously been identified as a Baird's beaked whale. Using DNA testing he found that two were actually a closer genetic match to the small black whales tested by Japanese scientists in 2013. One of those was from a whale that washed ashore in 2004 and now hangs in a school gym in Dutch Harbor. Scientists there had long assumed it was a younger Baird's beaked whale.

    Morin also took the suggestion of one of the Japanese scientists, who had identified a skeleton from 1948 with an unusual shaped head at the Smithsonian Institution. And he tracked down another skeleton from the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History with body measurements that suggested they were the small black form. Morin took bone powder from both, and tested their DNA. They, too, were a match for karasu.

    Along with the whale from St. George, Morin now had found five new specimens that were similar to the three found in Japan.

    To describe a new species, however, "you build up lines of evidence, but that's very hard with an animal we've never seen alive," Morin says. But body measurements between Baird's beaked whales and the smaller black creature proved vastly different, as did their DNA.

    Baird's beaked whales range throughout the North Pacific from Russia and Japan to Mexico. Genetic variation among Baird’s beaked whales was tiny. But for the five new black specimens Morin tested, all initially from the Bering Sea or the Aleutians, the sequences differed from the Baird's beaked whales significantly.

    "The genetic variation within the forms was little, while the divergence between them was much larger," Morin says. "That's our strongest argument."

    The whale still needs to be formally described and named, and Morin's findings would have to be accepted by outside experts who track cetacean taxonomy. But Pitman and others say the case is strong that it’s a new species.

    "We're doing increasing damage to our environment, and we can't even begin to conserve the biodiversity we know is out there," Morin says. "Yet there's so much more about our world we don't even understand."

    Japan kills more than 300 whales

    Three dead Minke Whales lie on the deck of the Japanese ship Nisshin Maru, in the Southern Ocean, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. (AAP)

    More than 300 whales including 200 pregnant females have been slaughtered in Japan's latest whaling mission in the Southern Ocean.

    Japan confirmed the kill as its ships returned from their "scientific" expedition in the Antarctic region on Thursday.

    Its actions are in defiance of international criticism and despite a 2014 UN legal decision that ruled so-called scientific whaling activity in the Southern Ocean was a front for commercial hunts.

    VGreens senator Peter Whish-Wilson accused the federal government of turning its back on Japan's "sickening" illegal activity.

    "Not in 40 years has an Australian government done so little to prevent whaling on our watch and in our waters," he said.

    He accused the government of breaking Environment Minister Greg Hunt's personal election promise to send a patrol vessel to the Southern Ocean to monitor whaling activity.

    Malcolm Turnbull has promised to keep up pressure on Japan over whaling, while improving economic and defence ties.

    The government has repeatedly refused to confirm whether it undertook any monitoring missions in the Southern Ocean this summer.

    It has also refused to release legal advice it sought when Japan announced it would resume whaling, despite the International Court of Justice ruling.

    Four survey ships from Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research were in the Antarctic region over a period of 115 days from December 1 last year.

    The institute's report on Thursday confirmed 333 minke whales were captured.

    Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the 2014/15 summer was the first time in 70 years Japan had stopped its whaling program - but the break was short-lived.

    He said Australia's leading international experts had examined Japan's new so-called scientific research program this year and found it was also a guise for killing whales, and a breach of international law.

    "That puts the onus on the Australian government to make sure this is the first and the last season of Japan's new so-called scientific program."

    The Australian government in December described Japan's decision to resume whaling over the summer as "deeply disappointing" and insisted it raised concerns at the highest level of the Japanese government.

    It had said it would consider sending a Customs patrol vessel to the Southern Ocean and explore options for legal action.

    But conservation group Sea Shepherd in February said the Japanese fleet had faced little or no scrutiny over the summer and Australia and New Zealand seemed unwilling to send a ship to intercept them.

    ญี่ปุ่นไม่สนถูกประชาคมโลกรุมประณาม ยันจะเดินหน้า “ล่าวาฬ” ต่อ อ้างเหตุผลเพื่อการวิจัย

    ญี่ปุ่นยืนกรานจะยังคงเดินหน้าโครงการล่าวาฬของตนต่อไป แม้จะต้องเผชิญเสียงเรียกร้องและแรงกดดัน จากคณะกรรมาธิการล่าวาฬระหว่างประเทศ (International Whaling Commission : IWC) ที่ระบุให้ญี่ปุ่นต้องยื่นหลักฐานเพื่อพิสูจน์ว่า การล่าวาฬของญี่ปุ่นมีความสอดคล้องกับวัตถุประสงค์ที่อ้างว่า ทำเพื่อการวิจัยทางวิทยาศาสตร์

    เอเจนซีส์/ ASTV ผู้จัดการออนไลน์ – ญี่ปุ่นยืนกรานจะยังคงเดินหน้าโครงการล่าวาฬของตนต่อไป แม้จะต้องเผชิญเสียงเรียกร้องและแรงกดดัน จากคณะกรรมาธิการล่าวาฬระหว่างประเทศ (International Whaling Commission : IWC) ที่ระบุให้ญี่ปุ่นต้องยื่นหลักฐานเพื่อพิสูจน์ว่า การล่าวาฬของญี่ปุ่นมีความสอดคล้องกับวัตถุประสงค์ที่อ้างว่า ทำเพื่อการวิจัยทางวิทยาศาสตร์

    รายงานข่าวที่ถูกเผยแพร่ในวันเสาร์ ( 20 มิ.ย.) ซึ่งอ้างถ้อยแถลงของโจจิ โมริชิตะ หัวหน้าคณะผู้ประสานงานของรัฐบาลแดนปลาดิบประจำคณะกรรมาธิการล่าวาฬระหว่างประเทศ ระบุว่า ญี่ปุ่นพร้อมเดินหน้าชี้แจงและตอบทุกข้อสงสัยของประชาคมโลกเกี่ยวกับโครงการล่าวาฬของตน

    อย่างไรก็ตาม หัวหน้าคณะผู้ประสานงานของรัฐบาลแดนปลาดิบประจำคณะกรรมาธิการล่าวาฬระหว่างประเทศ ยืนยันว่า แผนการเดินหน้าล่าวาฬของตนในปีนี้ จะยังคงดำเนินต่อไปตามปกติ โดยจะไม่มีการลดจำนวนวาฬเป้าหมายลงแต่อย่างใด

    ท่าทีล่าสุดของหัวหน้าคณะผู้ประสานงานของญี่ปุ่นประจำคณะกรรมาธิการ IWC มีขึ้นไม่ถึง 24 ชั่วโมง หลังจากที่ทางคณะกรรมาธิการชุดดังกล่าว ออกคำแถลงกล่าวหาว่า ทางการญี่ปุ่นประสบ “ความล้มเหลวอย่างสิ้นเชิง” ในการชี้แจงหลักฐานที่สามารถพิสูจน์ได้ว่า การล่าวาฬของประเทศตนเองนั้น เป็นไปเพื่อวัตถุประสงค์ด้านวิทยาศาสตร์จริง

    ทั้งนี้ โครงการล่าวาฬเพื่อวัตถุประสงค์ด้านวิทยาศาสตร์ของญี่ปุ่น ตามที่มีการยื่นข้อมูลไว้กับคณะกรรมาธิการ IWC นั้น ระบุว่า ญี่ปุ่นตั้งเป้าล่าวาฬมิงก์ไว้สูงถึง 3,996 ตัวในน่านน้ำของทวีปแอนตาร์กติกา ตลอดระยะเวลา 12 ปีข้างหน้า

    ก่อนหน้านี้ ศาลยุติธรรมระหว่างประเทศ ( International Court of Justice : ICJ) เคยมีคำตัดสินเมื่อปี 2014 ที่ผ่านมาซึ่งระบุให้ญี่ปุ่นต้องงดเว้นจากการออกใบอนุญาตล่าวาฬเพิ่มเติม และต้องเพิกถอนใบอนุญาตของเดิมที่ออกไปแล้วทั้งหมด แต่แน่นอนว่า ญี่ปุ่นปฎิเสธที่จะปฏิบัติตามคำตัดสินของศาล

    ที่ผ่านมา ญี่ปุ่นถูกกล่าวหาและรุมประณามจากประชาคมโลกมาโดยตลอดเกี่ยวกับโครงการล่าวาฬเพื่อวัตถุประสงค์ด้านวิทยาศาสตร์ของญี่ปุ่น โดยเฉพาะข้อกล่าวหาที่ว่า ในความเป็นจริงแล้ว โครงการล่าวาฬดังกล่าวมีขึ้นเพื่อการพาณิชย์ (commercial whaling) อย่างชัดเจนโจ่งแจ้ง

    ช่วยวาฬ

    ชาวบ้านกำลังพยายามช่วยชีวิตวาฬหัวแตงโมที่ปกติมักพบอยู่ในทะเลลึก แต่มาเกยตื้นบริเวณชายหาดเมืองโฮโกตะ ทางทิศตะวันออกเฉียงเหนือของกรุงโตเกียว ประเทศญีปุ่น โดยมีรายงานว่ามีวาฬหัวแตงโมมากกว่า 130 ตัวที่มาเกยตื้นชายหาดแห่งนี้เมื่อวันที่ 10 เมษายน

    NEW ZEALAND RESCUERS REFLOAT 60 STRANDED WHALES

    Whales ‘swimming into deep water’ after help from volunteers and conservation staff following mass stranding on Farewell Spit at top of South Island

    The 60 pilot whales stranded off New Zealand’s South Island have been refloated and “it’s looking quite good”, rescuers say.

    About 200 whales stranded on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay on Friday and about 140 died and the rest had been refloated. But 60 restranded and Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and 400 volunteers worked to keep them alive on Saturday until they could be refloated at high tide in the early evening.

    Lead whales were taken out on pontoons and other whales were moved to follow them, says DOC conservation services manager for Golden Bay, Andrew Lamason.

    “They’re all off and the lead whales are actually now swimming into deep water and are going in the right direction,” he said. “Our guys are moving in behind them to keep an eye on them and it’s looking quite good.” The whales were monitored overnight on Saturday.

    Farewell Spit is a narrow sand spit at the northern end of Golden Bay and there have been numerous previous whale standings there.

    This is the biggest stranding in 15 years, according to locals. Pilot whales grow to about 20ft (6 metres) in length and are the most common species of whale found in New Zealand waters.

    NEARLY 200 PILOT WHALES STRANDED IN NEW ZEALAND

    NEARLY 200 PILOT WHALES STRANDED IN NEW ZEALAND 13 February 2015 Last updated at 18:05 GMT Nearly 200 pilot whales have become stranded on New Zealand's South Island at a spot well-known for whale beachings.

    Dozens of conservation workers and volunteers rushed to the area and tried to refloat the whales as the tide rose.

    But at least two dozen of the 198 mammals died, despite efforts to save them, according to the Department of Conservation.

    Experts describe the area, called Farewell Spit, as a whale trap, due to the way its shallow waters seem to diminish whales' ability to navigate.

    FOUR GIANT SPERM WHALES FOUND BEACHED IN YANCHENG CITY, CHINAS JIANGSU

    A frontier defense soldier sprays water to preserve moisture for a stranded sperm whale on the beach of Yancheng City, east China's Jiangsu Province, March 17, 2012. Four giant sperm whales, with each one measuring 20 meters in length and weighing 30 tonnes, were found beached in the city. (Xinhua/Xia Jun)

    Frontier defense soldiers spray water to preserve moisture for a stranded sperm whale on the beach of Yancheng City, east China's Jiangsu Province, March 16, 2012.

    Four giant sperm whales, with each one measuring 20 meters in length and weighing 30 tonnes, were found beached in the city. (Xinhua/Xia Jun) (ry)

    วาฬเกยตื้นร่วม100ตัวเกาะใต้นิวซีแลนด์-ตายแล้ว22ตัว

    พบฝูงวาฬร่วม 100 ตัวเกยตื้นชายหาดเกาะใต้ในนิวซีแลนด์ตายไปแล้ว 22 ตัวขณะอาสาสมัครพยายามช่วยชีวิตวาฬที่เหลือเต็มที่

    นาย จอห์น เมสัน ผู้จัดการฝ่ายอนุรักษ์สัตว์ป่าประจำภูมิภาคของนิวซีแลนด์เผยว่า คณะเจ้าหน้าที่และอาสาสมัครกำลังพยายามรักษาระดับความเย็นเพื่อยื้อชีวิตฝูง วาฬดังกล่าว และจะพามันกลับลงทะเล แต่โชคร้ายพบว่า ขณะนี้ มีวาฬตายไปแล้ว 22 ตัวจากทั้งหมด 99 ตัว ที่เกยตื้นบนชายหาดของอ่าวโกลเดน ใกล้เมืองท่องเที่ยวเนลสัน

    นายเมสัน กล่าวว่า ไม่รู้สาเหตุของวาฬมาเกยตื้นครั้งนี้ ส่วนโฆษกกลุ่มอนุรักษ์สัตว์ ตั้งความหวังว่า วาฬที่เหลืออยู่จะรอดตายและถูกส่งกลับสู่ทะเลได้สำเร็จ

    อย่างไรก็ตาม วาฬมักมาเกยตื้นตายในพื้นที่ดังกล่าวเป็นประจำ และช่วงต้นเดือนที่ผ่านมา มีวาฬเกยตื้นบน ชายหาดเดียวกัน 25 ตัว แต่ถูกส่งกลับทะเลได้เพียง 18 ตัวเท่านั้น ทั้งยังมีวาฬนำร่อง 47 ตัวเคยล้มตายในพื้นที่เดียวกัน เมื่อ 2 เดือนก่อน ส่วนวาฬนำร่องชนิดนี้ ที่มีความยาว 6 เมตร เป็นสายพันธุ์ที่พบเห็นได้บ่อยในน่านน้ำของนิวซีแลนด์

    NEW ZEALAND WHALE STRANDING KILLS 36, THREATENS 40

    A mass-stranding of whales on a New Zealand beach has left 36 of the creatures dead and threatens 40 more.

    Department of Conservation area manager John Mason said 99 pilot whales stranded themselves Monday on Farewell Spit on the South Island. By Tuesday, 36 whales had died and another 40 remained stranded and were still in danger.

    Mason said conservation staff and volunteers had successfully refloated 17 whales, which had swum out to deeper water. Another six whales remained unaccounted for. AP In this Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, photo... View Full Caption The 40 beached whales were briefly swimming in shallow water early Tuesday afternoon but became stranded again by the evening as the tide went out. Mason said volunteers would try to keep the whales cool and wet until dark. He said after that, all they could hope for was that the whales would swim away on the next high tide during the night.

    Pilot whales grow to about 20 feet (6 meters), and large strandings are common during the New Zealand summer. Experts describe Farewell Spit as a whale trap due to the way its shallow waters seem to confuse whales and diminish their ability to navigate.

    BOATERS ON WATCH FOR TAGGED GRAY WHALE FROM RUSSIA

    Southern California marine mammal enthusiasts should note that a special whale named Varvara will be passing through local waters today and Friday.

    The 8-year-old female gray whale, sporting a satellite tag that reveals her position, is special because she has swum all the way from Sakhalin Island in the western North Pacific off Russia, providing scientists with more evidence that Western Pacific gray whales may not be as distinct from Eastern Pacific gray whales as previously believed.

    Varvara hails from a critically endangered population of perhaps 130 Western Pacific gray whales, with very few breeding-age females. There are about 20,000 Eastern Pacific gray whales, famous for their annual 10,000-mile round-trip migration from the Bering and Beaufort seas to and from winter breeding areas in lagoons along the Baja California coastline.

    It has become increasingly evident that both populations utilize the same breeding areas. However, David Weller, a marine mammal specialist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, has authored a manuscript (under peer-review) which states that despite this mixing, "Significant DNA and nuclear genetic differences between whales utilizing the Sakhalin feeding ground and those summering in the Eastern North Pacific support the continued recognition of Sakhalin animals as a distinct genetic unit."

    Varvara is expected to pass through the Los Angeles/Long Beach area late today and pass Orange County and San Diego on Friday.

    Her position is relayed to scientists at Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute. (People can obtain weekly updates of Varvara's progress, each Monday, via this link.)

    Her odyssey follows that of Flex, who was fitted with a satellite tag a year earlier. Flex, a male Western Pacific gray whale, surprised scientists when he crossed from the western Pacific to this side, and joined with Eastern Pacific grays during their migration.

    The tag worn by Flex, however, stopped transmitting off southern Oregon. Varvara's tag is still relaying her position. She has been photographed with other gray whales off Oregon and Northern California, but it was not clear whether they were Western Pacific or Eastern Pacific grays.

    It's likely, however, that un-tagged Western Pacific gray whales are on a similar journey. Weller and Amanda Bradford last summer presented a paper showing that four Western Pacific gray whales, cataloged as part of a photo identification study, had turned up in Baja's renowned San Ignacio Lagoon.

    It might seem to some that, given this information, there may be only one gray whale population in the North Pacific, and it just so happens that some gray whales utilize Russian coastal waters during the summer.

    But Weller says there have been observations of gray whales off Japan and China in the winter and spring, and a photo-ID match showing a Honshu-Sakhalin link, suggesting that "not all gray whales identified off Sakhalin share a common wintering ground."

    Thus, a strong conservation efforts is still required in order to protect the small Western Pacific gray whale population.

    Varvara will be nearly impossible to discern from other southbound gray whales. It's not known if she will pass beyond or inside of the Channel Islands. If boaters spot a very small tag just in front of the first dorsal knuckle on a whale's back, however, they could be seeing Varvara.

    As of the time of this post, Bruce Mate, who runs the Marine Mammal Institute, could not be reached for comment. He may have been too busy trying to physically locate Varvara.

    Pete Thomas

    Note: This research was conducted by A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IEE RAS) and Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute in collaboration with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, Kronotsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve and the Kamchatka Branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography. The research was contracted through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with funding from Exxon Neftegas Ltd. and Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd.

    NORWAY WHALING DECLINE HAS AUTHORITIES CONCERNED

    A Minke whale swims near a whale-watching boat off Reykjavik, Iceland on April 23, 2009. Authorities in Norway have expressed concern that the country's whaling industry is dropping off, from 33 whales killed in 2001 to 19 last year. Photograph by: Olivier Morin, AFP/Getty Images

    OSLO - Norwegian authorities called Wednesday on the country's whaling industry to counter the dramatic drop over the past decade in the number of boats partaking in the annual whale hunts. The number of Norwegian vessels actively hunting whales has shrunk from 33 in 2001 to just 19 last year, Norway's Directorate of Fisheries said in a statement.

    "The authorities are therefore stressing the importance of the sector itself working to recruit new participants," it said.

    Whales have been protected by a global moratorium on hunting since 1986, but Norway does not abide by the ban.

    In a bid to sustain a small market, the government in Oslo has meanwhile gradually increased the annual whaling quotas in recent years.

    In 2011, it authorized hunters to cull 1,286 Minke whales, up from 549 of the small whales hunters were allowed to take a decade earlier.

    But with the number of whalers in free-fall the industry has increasingly had trouble filling its swelling quota.

    In the past couple of years, whalers have not been able to kill more than around half their quota, with just 41 percent of the permitted number taken in 2011.

    They blame overfilled processing plants, high fuel costs, hunting areas located too far from the coast and difficult weather conditions.

    Environmentalists meanwhile insist the whalers' failure to fill their quotas is the result of dwindling demand for the meat that was once a staple of the pauper's diet in Norway.

    Norway and Iceland are the only countries in the world to have lodged reservations against the 1986 international moratorium on commercial whaling, both claiming Minke whale stocks are large enough to merit limited hunts.

    Japan meanwhile uses a loophole that allows killing the animals for "lethal research," but a large portion of the meat also makes it to commercial markets.

    RARE WHALE ENCOUNTERS BAFFLE RESEARCHERS

    Sightings are likely the result of a combination of factors John Calambokidis — Cascadia Research A blue whale is observed off the Washington Coast. East Oregonian Publishing Group Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    The encounters with blue whales off the Washington Coast earlier this month caused delight in the scientific community.

    But it also raised the question: Why are they here?

    It's unknown whether blue whales are expanding their range into this area, whether this was a one-off encounter, or if they are here every December but nobody sees them because it is so rarely possible to spend meaningful amounts of time looking for them in the wintertime in our stormy waters.

    The Corliss, a 56-foot fisheries enforcement vessel operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, was out for the day from Westport, Wash., running zigzag transects as part of a collaborative study of whale distributions when six whales were seen about 30 miles west of Long Beach, Wash. Cascadia Research and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are WDFW's partners in the NOAA-funded project.

    "I think the sightings are likely the result of a combination of factors that may include that there are favorable conditions that have created krill for them to feed on, that sightings are likely fairly rare, but perhaps not as rare as we thought due to the lack of winter effort offshore," said John Calambokidis, research biologist with Cascadia Research.

    The Guide Canyon, where the whales were found Dec. 8, acts as a sort of funnel that concentrates the upwelling of deep-sea nutrients, creating a delicious buffet of tiny shrimp-like krill.

    Washington state biologist Steve Jeffries noted that blue whales are still slowly recovering at a rate of about 2 or 3 percent a year after having been hunted to the verge of extinction. There are now an estimated 14,000 blues at most worldwide. They are commonly sighted off California. Before industrial whaling started, estimates place their population at about 275,000.

    Blues are no longer hunted anywhere in the world. There were, however, whaling stations at Bay City in Grays Harbor (Wash.) County in the early 1900s and one in the Astoria area that operated into the mid-20th century. Calambokidis said of the Bay City station that, "while it primarily took humpback whales, it did take small numbers of blue whales although it did not operate in winter months."

    Cascadia has cataloged more than 2,000 on the West Coast based on photos of their mottling patterns and unique dorsal fin shapes.

    Four of the six spotted here have been previously photographed - one in 1987 off Monterrey Bay, Calif.; one most recently seen in 2009 in the Santa Barbara Channel in California; one seen several times in the Santa Barbara Channel, most recently in 2007, and once off Crescent City, Calif., in 2005; and one last seen off Crescent City in 2004.

    Researchers tried to place satellite tags on the whales seen here, but were unable to get close enough. Jeffries said the tags, smaller than a cigarette pack, are a minor intrusion on the whales but provide big payoffs in terms of information about the whales' locations.

    Crabbers and other fishermen rarely have any cause to venture far enough away from shore to have any chance of encountering the blue, fin or humpback whales. "There's nobody but us out there," Jeffries said. Even on a "nice" winter day, there is a 6- to 8-foot swell and perhaps a 20 to 30 mph wind.

    The blues are unlikely to be seen from shore here, Calambokidis said. "Sightings from shore occasionally occur in some areas including a few areas off California, but generally they are out closer to the shelf edge and well out of range of being seen from shore."

    Jeffries thinks it's possible observers might spot blue whale blows from high observation points like Cape Disappointment or North Head.

    Humpback whales are more likely to be seen close to shore in our area. Last summer, 30 to 40 "humpies" were seen together off Tillamook Head. This May, a breaching whale landed atop a sailboat that had to be escorted back into port by a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Cape Disappointment.

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