Iceland announces plan to kill over 2,000 whales within next five years

Iceland announces plan to kill over 2,000 whales within next five years

SOURCE: The Independent DATE: February 22, 2019 SNIP: Icelandic authorities have announced plans to kill more than 2,000 whales over a five-year period, in a move that has angered environmental groups. Despite a declining global market for whale meat and falling public support, the government opted to remain in defiance of the international ban on whaling. Whalers will be authorised to harpoon 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales in Icelandic waters every year until 2023. Last summer Iceland was at the centre of controversy after reports it had killed two rare blue/fin whale hybrids and at least a dozen pregnant females. However, hopes that this bad press would bring an end to the practice were dashed with the latest announcement. “The Icelandic government’s decision to continue to kill whales – amongst the most peaceful and intelligent beings on the planet – is morally repugnant as well as economically bankrupt,” said Vanessa Williams-Grey, a campaigner for the Whale and Dolphin...
Why are hundreds of dead dolphins washing up on French beaches?

Why are hundreds of dead dolphins washing up on French beaches?

SOURCE: The Local DATE: February 18, 2019 SNIP: Since the start of 2019, up to 600 dolphins have washed up on beaches along France’s Atlantic coast. While dead dolphins wash up on beaches in France each year scientists say the situation is alarming. “If you compare these figures to last year’s over the same period, there are already more dead dolphins that the previous years, which were already record years,” said researcher Hélène Peltier from the Pelagis marine life observatory which carries out surveys. Most of the dead dolphins found bear injury marks which researchers say are caused by big fishing boats and the large fishing nets they use. “Among the carcasses found, 93 percent show signs that they have been captured by fishing vessels and their equipment such as mutilations, amputations and fractured jaws,” according to the French environmental charity France Nature Environnement (FNE). The dolphins get caught in the vast nets used to catch fish like hake and sea bass, which the dolphins like to eat. Some of these nets are fixed in the sea bed and when dolphins get stuck in them, they can’t come up for air to breathe and they suffocate. Trawlers are also a problem as they drag large fishing nets behind them which dolphins also get caught in and suffer injuries and die. When they get stuck, dolphins panic, and the stress can also kill...
Killer Whales Are Expanding into the Arctic, Then Dying as the Ice Sets In

Killer Whales Are Expanding into the Arctic, Then Dying as the Ice Sets In

SOURCE: Hakai Magazine DATE: February 14, 2019 SNIP: In February 2016, hunters from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut spotted two killer whales prowling around a group of beluga whales in southeast Hudson Bay. It was an unusual sight for the time of year—killer whales don’t usually show up there until the summer, and are rare even then. In June, residents of the Inuit community spotted two other killer whales. By July, all four killer whales were dead. Trapped in the bay by thick sea ice, they starved to death. Hudson Bay is a geographically complex inland sea with just two entrances—or exits—both at the north. Most years, the bay freezes over completely from mid-November until mid-July. Killer whales are typically found in the open ocean, but in recent years they have been venturing into the bay during the ice-free summer in search of prey such as belugas or narwhals. As the ice forms across the bay’s entrances in the fall, the only escape for the whales is to swim north. But this goes against their normal instincts, says Steve Ferguson, an evolutionary ecologist from the University of Manitoba. In the open ocean, killer whales would head south, where there is typically less ice. The result is that the killer whales find themselves trapped long into the winter, and, soon after, begin to starve. These killer whales may have been locals from the northeastern Canadian Arctic that were exploring Hudson Bay for the first time, or newcomers that moved into the region from afar—scientists aren’t sure. Either way, the lack of sea ice in the bay—which is setting in later, and over a...
Are We Watching the End of the Monarch Butterfly?

Are We Watching the End of the Monarch Butterfly?

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: January 25, 2019 SNIP: Over the period of a year, monarchs produce four to five generations. The last and longest-lasting of them is born between August and October. Unlike their predecessors, which live as butterflies for a mere two to four weeks, these monarchs survive for six to eight months. After staying put over the winter in Mexico or California, they disperse in March or April, spreading far and wide in search of milkweed upon which to lay their eggs, which will morph into caterpillars that become the next generation of butterflies. The final generation in this yearlong cycle will return to the same California coast as their ancestors did. How these butterflies find their place of origin remains a mystery. The total number of West Coast monarchs was estimated at approximately 4.5 million in the 1980s. In the latest count, that number fell to 28,429, dipping below the number scientists estimate is needed to keep the population going. This drastic decline indicates the migration is collapsing. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce in June whether its scientists think the monarch qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Fewer butterflies means fewer birds, and we need birds, in part, to help control other insects, like mosquitoes, that carry dangerous diseases. We acknowledge that the biotic world only works by way of the networks that connect each species in a web of life. We must take account of our role in the demise of this species, a consequence of habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides and herbicides, if only...
Bye bye blackbird?: RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch marks 40 years

Bye bye blackbird?: RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch marks 40 years

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 25, 2019 SNIP: The garden of 1979 was filled with glossy gangs of starlings, the atonal chirp of sparrows and the tap-tap of song thrushes breaking open snail shells. In 2019, you’re more likely to hear the screech of a ring-necked parakeet, the “coo” of a collared dove or the “woo” of a woodpigeon. The Big Garden Birdwatch is marking its 40th year this weekend, with half a million people expected to spend an hour counting the birds in their garden or local green space in what is the world’s biggest wildlife citizen science project. The RSPB survey reveals sharp vicissitudes of fortune for our garden visitors over the years. Starlings have fallen by 80%, song thrushes by 75% and house sparrows by 57%. Even ubiquitous garden heroes the robin (-31%) and blackbird (-41%) have become more scarce. But gardens have filled with different sights and songs, with woodpigeons bustling in to view, rising by 950%. Collared doves are up 307% and magpies – viewed with suspicion by many small-bird lovers – have risen by...