Good news for Right Whales, not so good for dolphins in the Keys

For Immediate Release, November 24, 2014 by Center for Biological Diversity

 Feds Agree to Protect More Habitat for East Coast’s Most Endangered Whales by 2016

BOSTON— A deadline for expanding critical habitat protections for the North Atlantic right whale — one of the world’s most endangered whales — has been set in response to a legal settlement agreement. Each year most of the 500 North Atlantic right whales remaining on Earth migrate from their feeding and breeding grounds off the U.S. Northeast to their nursery areas off the Southeast. But only a tiny portion of this expansive range is protected as federally designated “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act, making the whales more vulnerable to threats that include commercial fishing gear, ship strikes and oil drilling.

The settlement requires the federal government to make a final decision by February 2016 about where and how much additional habitat should be protected.

Animals in captivity didn’t fare as well today.

British Airways refuses to cut ties with SeaWorld.  With over a quarter of a million signatures on the petition, Jonathan Counsell, British Airways head of environment sent out the following update:

We have actively sought the views of and evidence from a range of people and organisations including the leading NGOs in this field on the issue of cetaceans in captivity. 
We welcome the extensive work undertaken by ABTA in publishing best practice guidance for the welfare of animals in tourism, particularly in countries where laws do not govern animal welfare. SeaWorld has assured us that its animal care standards exceed this best practice guidance and are governed by US federal and state laws alongside accreditation standards set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums as well as the Association of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. Further, SeaWorld does not collect cetaceans from the wild and has not done so for nearly three decades.

On this basis we currently see no reason to end our relationship with the organisation. We will continue to offer our customers the option to make their own decisions on whether to visit SeaWorld.

We recognise that the science of cetacean welfare is evolving and we encourage further study in this area.

Dolphin Research Center, located in Marathon, is offering “Holiday photos with a dolphin”, the very definition of exploitation.  According to Virtual-Strategy Magazine,

Holiday Photos with a Dolphin takes place now through Dec. 19 at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon. Visitors can bring their own Santa hats, reindeer antlers or other accessories to use while posing. The Dolphin Research Center’s experienced photographers will shoot the photos using high resolution digital cameras. Guest can go onto a floating dock to give backrubs and share a “flippershake” with a dolphin while having their photo taken.

Feel free to contact DRC to ask them to stop exploiting dolphins at drc@dolphins.org

Conservation groups file lawsuit for Sea Turtle Protection

turtle release

According to the Associated Press,

SARASOTA, Fla. – Several conservation groups filed lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. They alleged the government’s role in allowing the deaths of thousands of imperiled sea turtles and countless other marine animals outside of power plant cooling systems.

The Center for Biological Diversity said it filed the lawsuit in federal court on Friday.

The groups say thousands of sea turtles get sucked into power plant cooling systems each year, including at the Big Bend, Anclote, Crystal River, Bayside and P.L. Bartow plants in Florida.

Sea turtle species are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

What’s Killing Manatees, Pelicans and now Dolphins in Florida?

Florida manatees are already at risk, but with 80 reported deaths in Brevard County since July, there is major concern.  There have also been 230 pelican deaths in the past several weeks and 23 dolphin deaths since January.

In an article in Florida Today, Kevin Baxter of Fish and Wildlife Research Institute reports twenty five of these manatees have died between March 10 and March 21 alone.  They are drowning with signs of shock and intestinal problems.  Digestive tracts are filled with macroalgae and show little sign of their usual seagrass diet.

Seagrass has almost vanished after a phytoplankton “superbloom” in 2011 followed by a brown algae bloom.  Excess algae grows when too many nutrients from fertilizer runoff or septic tanks enter the estuary.

Tests run in February by US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI for botulism in pelicans came back negative.

Biologists have not been able to identify any pathogen, algae toxin or other substance killing the manatees and pelicans.  At this point they are not even sure if the deaths are related.  The lab is culturing samples to test for bacteria and viruses, which should take a few weeks.

NOAA is examining whether the manatee and dolphin deaths are linked.  Blair Mase, NOAA’s southeast regional marine mammal stranding coordinator, stated, “Right now, we have a correlation in location, but we’re not seeing much else.  We’re monitoring the area very close”.   The dolphins are reported to by very skinny and were mainly adult females.  A few had shark bites, but it is not clear whether the bites came before or after death.  Tissue samples have been sent to veterinary pathologist for testing to look for heavy metals, contaminants and toxins.

Typically 600-700 dolphins live in Indian River Lagoon.