Nearly 20,000 non-native salmon escaped after fire at B.C. fish farm

Nearly 20,000 non-native salmon escaped after fire at B.C. fish farm

SOURCE: BC CTV News DATE: December 22, 2019 SNIP: Most of the 21,000 Atlantic salmon that were in a Vancouver Island fish farm pen damaged by fire have escaped, the company who operates the farm confirmed Sunday. The breach happened on Friday, but on Saturday the company, Mowi, was still inspecting the damage and couldn’t yet confirm the number of fish that had made their way out of the pen and into the ocean near Port Hardy. The news that most of the fish did indeed escape has confirmed the worst fears of wild salmon advocate Tavish Campbell, who flew over the fish farm site on Saturday and took photos and video. “My heart just sank,” Campbell said of the moment when he saw the collapsed pen. Dr. Diane Morrison, managing director of Mowi Canada West, said she and the company are profoundly sorry the incident happened, because the public is so concerned about farmed Atlantic salmon getting into the ocean. But, she said, studies suggest there is a low risk of Atlantic salmon swimming into B.C. rivers to spawning grounds in large numbers, and “an even lower risk of them establishing successful populations.” Scientists and First Nations have become increasingly concerned about the sharp decline in B.C.’s wild salmon populations. This year, DFO forecast 4.7 million salmon would return to the Fraser River; just 600,000 – or 13 per cent of the original forecast – showed up. Campbell said that with wild B.C. salmon struggling with sharply declining populations, the escape of thousands of non-native salmon is a concern. “These are an exotic species that don’t belong in...
Tigers Extinct in Laos

Tigers Extinct in Laos

SOURCE: Scientific American DATE: December 22, 2019 SNIP: Are tigers extinct in Laos? That’s the conclusion of a detailed new study that found no evidence wild tigers still exist in the country. What researchers did find during a five-year camera survey of the biodiversity-rich Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area was evidence of snares—lots and lots of deadly snares, which are designed to trap and kill any animals that stumble across them. It appears that tigers have now paid the ultimate price for the snaring crisis that plagues Laos and the rest of Southeast Asia. “Snares are simple to make,” says Akchousanh Rasphone, a zoologist with the Wildlife Research Conservation Unit and lead author of the study. “One person can set hundreds or even thousands of snares, which kill indiscriminately and are inhumane for anything that is captured.” Most animals killed in snares are destined for Asia’s bushmeat markets, although tigers themselves are sought by wildlife traffickers for their valuable furs and body parts. The loss of tigers in Laos was an avoidable, if not unexpected, tragedy. The most recent worldwide tiger population estimates, released in April 2016, put the number of tigers remaining in the country at all of two. The observation of those last two Laotian tigers came from the first year of the camera survey; they were never seen again—except, in all likelihood, by the trappers who killed them. “Our team did what we could with our limited resources to conserve the species,” says Rasphone. “We did our best despite being defeated by the high international demand in the illegal wildlife trade for this species.” Their...
Northwest killer whales are shrinking in size — and so are their prey, chinook salmon

Northwest killer whales are shrinking in size — and so are their prey, chinook salmon

SOURCE: Seattle Times DATE: December 16, 2019 SNIP: Hungry young orcas grow up to be stunted orcas, new research shows, revealing that salmon-run downturns can have lifelong effects. The findings, published last month in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Endangered Species Research, were based on aerial photos taken by drone of whales in both the southern and northern resident orca populations. The photos document just how closely the health of resident killer whales is tied to the abundance of their favorite prey: big chinook salmon. Younger whales born since the 1980s in both the northern and southern populations of salmon-eating resident orcas are shorter in length than older whales that grew up when chinook runs were more abundant, the photos revealed. It was a significant difference: The stunted whales growing up in lean times were on average nearly half a meter shorter than older adults, according to the paper published by authors from SR3: Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Vancouver Aquarium and Southall Environmental Associates (SEA) Inc., an environmental consulting firm. The findings suggest the effects of hunger not only can be lethal, taking out calves and adults, but also can have long-term consequences for the condition of the whales that survive, said John Durban, author and senior scientist with Southall. “It was shocking; some of these effects are pretty big,” Durban said. “The average difference in size is a couple of feet.” [S]cientists know lack of adequate prey is affecting southern residents’ survival. So are boat noise and pollution. Scientists also are looking at inbreeding and disease as contributors to the decline...
Contaminated wastewater from ships harmful to orcas

Contaminated wastewater from ships harmful to orcas

SOURCE: The Province DATE: December 14, 2019 SNIP: Cruise ships that use scrubbers to comply with international sulphur-limit laws may be unintentionally harming endangered whales off the coast of B.C., says a new WWF-commissioned study. The report “A whale of a problem? Heavy fuel oil, exhaust gas cleaning systems, and British Columbia’s resident killer whales” was released this week by the International Council on Clean Transportation. The study was funded by World Wildlife Fund Canada. For the study, researchers analyzed 30 commercial ships operating off the coast of B.C. that are equipped with exhaust gas cleaning systems, also called scrubbers, that remove harmful sulphur oxides from exhaust gases of heavy fuel oil used in marine engines. Open-looped scrubbers, the most commonly used system, pump a mix of water and contaminants into the ocean called wash water. The wash water contains “carcinogenic substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals,” according to the report. There are no federal laws about ships operating in “open” mode, but the report is calling for legislation to eliminate open-looped scrubbers. A Tranport Canada spokeswoman, Annie Joannette, said the department is reviewing the WWF report. The WWF report found that the 30 ships studied in 2017 emitted nearly 35 million tonnes of scrubber wastewater off the B.C. coast, including in areas where there are endangered species of killer whales. Cruise ships were responsible for 90 per cent of these discharges, according to the study. Of the 30 ships with scrubbers installed, 16 had open-loop scrubbers and 14 had a hybrid of open and closed-loop scrubbers. The report said it is possible that some ship...
Modern fishing methods are driving small whales and dolphins to extinction

Modern fishing methods are driving small whales and dolphins to extinction

SOURCE: Science DATE: December 11, 2019 SNIP: More than a dozen species of small whales and dolphins are headed toward extinction, a new study finds. The main reason: modern fishing nets, which trap and kill hundreds of thousands of the animals every year. The findings are “a good summary of the insidious threats facing critically endangered populations of dolphins and porpoises around the world,” says C. Scott Baker, a conservation geneticist and cetacean expert at Oregon State University in Newport who was not involved with the study. Small cetaceans such as the vaquita and various river dolphins successfully lived alongside human fishers for thousands of years in coastal waters, estuaries, and rivers. Then, after World War II, fishers began to replace their cotton and hemp nets with less expensive and more durable synthetic ones. These so-called gillnets don’t require expensive equipment or large vessels, making them especially attractive to small-scale fishers worldwide. But cetaceans (as well as other marine mammals and sea turtles) can’t bite through the nets if caught in them, as they could with the cotton nets. Conservationists have tried for at least 30 years to develop nets that the animals can avoid or easily escape, but they have yet to come up with a good solution. They have also urged governments to enact strict regulations and outright bans on the use of gillnets, but these are typically difficult to enforce. Now, 13 small cetacean species are nearing extinction primarily because of these nets, marine biologists report this month in Endangered Species Research. Using data collected by fishing authorities who have recorded population sizes, trends, and the...