So, lots of whale stories coming up recently. This was just reported in.
Today (03/17/11) a POD of about 30 pilot whales has stranded on Tasmania’s South Bruny Island.
The whales are believed to be pilot whales and became stranded late this afternoon.
Department of Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Liz Wren said about 12 of the whales were still alive and Parks and Wildlife are on the beach trying to help the stranded mammals.
On March 10, 2011 a very rare sighting of an entire pod of sperm whales, described as a “once in a lifetime” sighting took place off the coast of California with 14 whales being counted. These bottom feeding whales rarely surface and almost always do so individually.
On February 20, 2011, following the Christchurch earthquake, there was a massive whale stranding of 107 pilot whales on Mason Bay Beach, a remote location on Stewart Island, Rakiura, New Zealand. The animals had to be euthanized because of the remaining length of time until high-tide and the lack of manpower to re-float them.
On November 8, 2010 thirty-three long finned pilot whales beached themselves in Donegal Ireland on Rutland Beach.
After the Irish Rutland beach stranding this report from the BBC addressed the issue:
Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) data shows there has been a 25% increase in reported strandings since it began keeping records 20 years ago.
At least 500 dolphins, porpoises and whales have been found stranded on British beaches so far this year.
So is the increase in stranding numbers a sign that something disturbing is happening to these sea-going mammals? Ian Enlander director of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Research Group (IWDG) said it was a difficult question to answer. “It may be a sign that awareness of strandings is increasing or perhaps something else is going on. There are sometimes clusters of these events which may be caused by strong weather systems pushing already dead or dying animals towards the shore.
On September 22nd, 2010, an “unprecedented stranding” happened on the coast of New Zealand when 74 whales beached one a 2 km strip of coast.
The Irish Examiner reports say that an “inexplicable” number of dolphin strandings have happened in January and February of 2011 on the shores of Cork, Waterford and Wexford compared to previous years.
Numbers rise in the US in 2011
Meanwhile, CNN reports that in February 2011 the US sees unprecedented numbers of baby dolphin strandings as well.
Baby bottlenose dolphins are washing up dead in record numbers on the shores of Alabama and Mississippi, alarming scientists and a federal agency charged with monitoring the health of the Gulf of Mexico.
Moby Solangi, the executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport, Mississippi, said Thursday he’s never seen such high death numbers.
“I’ve worked with marine mammals for 30 years, and this is the first time we’ve seen such a high number of calves,” he said. “It’s alarming.”
Along the Louisiana coast dolphin beachings have increased dramatically in early 2011.
The rate of dolphin strandings on the Louisiana coast has nearly doubled so far in 2011. Twenty-six strandings have happened since January 1. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officials say typically, six to seven occur per month.
Off the coast of Miami Florida 2011 has also set records for dolphin and manatee deaths:
Near-record numbers of manatees have died in Florida waters in early 2011, the second straight year of above-average deaths, alarming officials who are also puzzled by a surge in dolphin fatalities along the US Gulf Coast.
Of the 163 manatee deaths recorded from January 1 to February 25, 91 of them have been blamed on cold water temperatures off the southern US state, where normally temperate weather draws the protected sea creatures during winter months, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
A record 185 manatees died in Florida during the same period last year, according to the commission.
Meanwhile on March 14, 2011, after the Sendai earthquake, thousands of fish crowded the shores in Acapulco Mexico.
For 20 years, Capt. Williams, founder of The Deaf Whale Society, has conducted extensive research on the reasons behind whale strandings. He has been able to successfully predict the time and place of whale beachings after underwater seismic activity.
His theory, best explained here along with how the conclusion was reached and tested, states that whales end up beached after barotrauma resulting from exposure to a series of dangerous pressure changes (seaquakes) generated when a thrusting earthquake erupts in the seabed below the feeding pod.
This theory was bolstered by further evidence released in a report by from Science Daily on US government funded research, recently published in the PLoS ONE journal published by the Public Library of Science, following 2008 accusations of Naval sonar beaching and killing whales.
“This suggests that beaked whales are particularly sensitive to sound. Their behavior tended to be disrupted at exposure levels around 140 decibels (dB), so they may require a lower threshold than many current regulations that anticipate disruption of behavior around 160 dB,”