21 August 2008

Watching Whales and Dolphins in their habitat

WATCH the beauty of these free whales and dolphins in the ocean, unencumbered by human artefacts and not harassed by human noises. Great work by Okeanos – Foundation for the Sea which is concerned with whale welfare. More resources on the impacts of human noises and their blog.

20 August 2008

Whale Calf Rescue, Sydney, Pt. II

An abundance of vessels and a new abundance of whales in the "least concern" category set the scene in this inter-species competition. The infant 'Moby Dick' seeks protection in the sheltered bay of the Sydney Basin.

Speculation has it, that it was "abandoned". As the bay of Pittwater is synonymous with yacht racing the Humpback calf t
urns into a 5 tonne 'problem'. Coaxed out into the deep Pacific, it would have been unclear whether the 5 m mammal was the responsibility of Zoo vets, NSW Parks and Wildlife Service, international agencies or even marine experts. The lone infant returned for the sheltered bay, seeking out what is most plentiful there, namely boats. Voices say that it would "have to be put down", "destroyed" or "euthanized".

Options of feeding it krill outside of captivity are dismissed, despite the 1997 baby whale rescue in the U.S."...The whale was hand-reared back to health before being released into the wild 14 months later. Our veterinarians and our animal care teams immediately went to work to try and save the animal" Such a rescue of a fellow mammal infant would only t
ake a fraction of the budget of dog food or imported seafoods.

Human caused stressors to whales:

Share the habitat!
  • Effectively protect these highly migratory marine mammals in their habitat.
  • Impose (seasonal) speed restrictions in areas frequented by whales and other protected fauna.
  • Create a protected crucial habitat as an Area to be Avoided (ATBA).
  • Divert some of the attention and budget bestowed on pets to unique marine mammal protection.
  • Reconsider mining and dredging Megaprojects on the coastline

Humpback whale calf lost in Sydney's buzz, Pt I
Desalination, a Megaproject or Water Conservation and Whales

-Melville, Herman, 1819-1891. Moby-Dick
- "Vessel Collisions with Whales: The Probability of Lethal Injury Based on Vessel Speed," (PDF) by Ms. Vanderlaan and Dr. Taggart,MARINE MAMMAL SCIENCE, 23(1): 144–156 (January 2007), C# 2006 by the Society for Marine Mammalogy, DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2006.00098.x
- IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature
Humpback whale, Brehm, Alfred, Brehms Thierleben, via Zeno
2."The Large Fish eating the Little ones", Bruegel d. Ä., Pieter, via Zeno

Updates 210808
- Now the military has been approached about towing it out to sea again. Imagine the smelly giant carcass in the middle of a yachting bay! abc 210808
- One person was attempting to feed the whale, but authorities stepped in.
- Event hungry people are moving in on the starving whale, keeping authorities busy to enforce the required exclusion zone, Manly Daily 210808
- Image:" The baby whale with wounds on its back thought to be from swimming under the yachts" SMH Blog 210808
- Meetings are on: tow out 'with the sharks' again or euthanise. Feeding option, a 'can't do'. SMH 210808
- A carcass in the Pitwater Bay would be smelly, an obstacle for yachts and would attract sharks.
- The death penalty has been pronounced by the the National Park and Wildlife Service: ".. the calf would be killed by lethal injection overnight or in the morning... Aboriginal "whale whisperer" Bunna Lawrie, who spent time with the whale this afternoon, patting the calf and singing to it..He heard me singing and came over. I looked at him and he was full of life. He had a few scratches and cuts on him and I was a bit worried about his eyes...All we have to do is get it out to sea, nurse it out there and guard and wait for pod of whales. Let the whales figure out if they can accept it. A mother may think it can feed two." SMH 210808

Update 220808:
- Euthanasia for the lost whale calf. A cost-effective and widely used chemical club on Australian wildlife. New experts will seek the truth in the entrails of the mammal and the remaining bones will serve “research” (sounds familiar!). So much for the human wildlife interface. via SMH 220808

MORE Starving Whales:
- Another starving humpback whale is in the overfished Baltic sea. It " is getting critical ... the whale is having trouble nourishing itself." Greenpeace " is now prepared to intervene to stop the whale from beaching itself." Spiegel 200808

Update 110908:
An application has been lodged for a licence to explore for gas in a 6,000 kilometre zone between Sydney's and Port Stephens, north of Newcastle. Seismic tests could interfere with whale migration. In Alaska the whale watching industry it taking mining operators to court. Gas exploration on the coastline has the potential to devastate the beaches and ruin the whale habitat. abc 110908

Update 180908
- "The International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) says undersea noise blocks animals' communication and disrupts feeding. Levels of noise in the world's oceans are causing serious problems for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. Humanity is literally drowning out marine mammals" BBC 150908

Update 111008
- Speed limits for large commercial ships travelling coastal waters populated by whales migrating have been applied by the U.S. government.Ships must now go below 10 knots in specified coastal regions. 091008 The NEW YORK TIMES

Update 171008
Autopsy results: The male calf "was suffering from acute pneumonia, serious body and pancreas emaciation, acute intestinal erosion and ulcers in the stomach and there were a number of infected shark bites as well" abc 171008 But why did he get so ill in the ocean?

Update 211008
"NOAA officials today issued a regulation that will implement new measures to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales. The regulation will, for the first time, require large ships to reduce speeds to ten knots in areas where the whales feed and reproduce, as well as along migratory routes in between. The goal of the regulation is to reduce the risk of ship collision with the whales." But it would also lessen the possibility of separating the mother and calf in busy traffic! More on
ship strike noaa news 211008

Update 061208
More on disruptive noise in the oceans for marine mammals:
"Ocean Noise: Turn it Down", pdf
Noise from vessels, increased seismic surveys for oil and gas, off-shore construction and recreation, and a new generation of military sonars can interfere with whales. "The United Nations Environment Programme's Convention on Migratory Species conference in Rome, are urging governments and industry to adopt quieter engines for ships, tighter rules on the use of seismic surveys, and new, less intrusive sonar technologies by navies...Ship noise in the Pacific Ocean has doubled every decade over the past 40 years and the global shipping fleet is expected to double in size by 2025, after doubling between 1965 and 2003.There is now evidence linking loud underwater noises with some major strandings of marine mammals.
By 2050 the chemistry of seawater could increase in acidity by 0.3 pH units... this change in ocean acidity would allow sounds to travel up to 70 percent farther underwater." Environmental News Service 031208

19 August 2008

Humpback whale calf lost in Sydney's buzz

Imagine a baby and its carer get separated at a busy freeway node – impossible to find each other again, the weakened child mistakes a parked SUV for its mother and attempts, in vain, to get nourishment. Helpful creatures manoeuvre it out into the 'wide and open spaces' where it might be hopefully reunited with its mother.

Humpback calf lost in Pittwater
Such is the story (sad video) of a v
ery young humpback calf found in isolation from its mother in busy Pittwater bay, north of Sydney. These slow-moving marine mammals, with their offspring in tow are on age-old journeys across the globe. For eons they have traversed their same marine territories. First, they were massacred by Australian whalers, now the whale watching industry has to lure the tourist dollar. Their habitat has also changed rapidly: The sheltered bays and the open ocean are more like the terrestial world's car-parks, oozing repair workshops, endless wider roads to shoot private mobility capsules along. The largest obstacle to their efficient flow are soft-bodied, slow-moving organisms, known as pedestrians and wildlife.
Boating Habitat
Aqua motoring in the Pittwater region (or anywhere else) operates according to t
he same mind-set. One look at Google Maps reveals the area is criss-crossed with boats racing and most of the shores are more akin to "car-parks". Industrialising and commercialising the water-bodies and the marine habitat brings about many "externalities" for the environment. Eutrophication from combustion powered boats, from sprawling sub-urbs and the associated 'shared debris' turns the beautiful Pacific and its bays progressively into dead zones. Not just for seasonal visiting whales - but for all living creatures. If they do not get entangled by anthropogenic debris or get infected, human business also robs them of their habitat, the open ocean.
Mega fauna is in the way

The intensification is a take-over by the terrestial mammals of the habitat of the whales, that do not have any other habitat to survive in. On the open oceans, whales are simply in the way of busy shipping lanes and other boats.. "In places where marine traffic is heavy, vessels fast and whale numbers expanding, violent encounters are increasingly common.” As on our roads - many cetacean and other marine animals are being maimed or killed by the 'collisions'. The wildlife of the oceans is becoming a "a hazard to sea craft" in their own habitat. In some areas the International Maritime Organization has designated an "Area to Be Avoided" for container ships to avoid killing them.

Even when not assaulted by aqua motoring the noise and vibration caused by the human racket will diminish their life or even kill them: "The throb of mighty engines and the thrash of propellers as 60,000 huge vessels plough the world’s sea lanes; the hammer of diesels and scream of outboards as 4 million fishing boats and more than 10 million ferries and pleasure craft surge to and fro; the thump and ping of military and fishing sonars; the deafening crash of seismic ships seeking oil and gas; the blare of acoustic harassment devices; the grinding of drills and dredges; the low-frequency growl of scientific experiments designed to monitor global warming."

Could it be, that in such a hostile habitat the whale and its calf became seperated though a degraded habitat and many missiles interjecting their journey?
> > Part II, Whale calf rescue, Sydney Basin

See also:
Desalination, Drilling rigs Sth of Sydney & Whale migration
More on Whales
MSM Updates:
- '
Out with the sharks', abc news, 190808
- Three weeks old calf "abandoned" and "doomed to die" speculations, SMH, 190808
- "The baby has further injured himself from its attempts to rub up on boats, with clearly visible sores on its back. In a last-ditch effort they convinced the whale to follow their boat out to sea, and it disappeared from view about 1km off Barrenjoey headland. It wasn't in good condition." Manly Daily, 190808
1. Part of Warren Langley's, Manly Visions, glass art at Manly Library
2. & 3. dotAtelier, inspired by Eora Rockengravings of the Pittwater region.

13 August 2008

Desalination - a Megaproject ! or Water Conservation and Whales

Today's news of the construction of a 16-storey drilling platform off Kurnell, Cape Solander assured us that "The six-month operation will..not have any impact on migrating whales. I have every confidence the whales will swim around it..There will be no impact on the residents of Kurnell"

Will the whales still make it past Manly?
Could Manly become another 'Kurnell'?

Once water conservation is off the agenda, the high cost and high energy option of desalination plants appears to be the only way to continue unsustainable practices on the driest continent. The environmental costs, apart from turning the sea/shore into an industrial zone (image) are carried by the wildlife and its biome.

The following reading list is highly recommended on topics that will not disappear in our life-time:

Desalination projects & transparency:
Phil Dickie of melaleuca media investigatives the options of desalination plants in "Making Water - Desalination option or distraction for a thirsty word" 0707 for WWF’s Global Freshwater Programme. "The first global survey of desalination from a non-industry perspective"
(pdf) Regarding Australia:

"All of the areas where seawater desalination is rapidly assuming a more prominent water supply role had more cost effective and less potentially environmentally damaging alternatives available. This is particularly true of demand management, water conservation and water efficiency measures, where many of even the more advanced economies such as Australia do not uniformly require easily achievable water and energy efficiency standards in new buildings."
Megaprojects & Transparency:
Bent Flyvbjerg, on megaprojects, Chapter 1 of his book Megaprojects and Risk: An anatomy of Ambition, by Bent Flyvbjerg, Nils Bruzelius, and Werner Rothengatter (Cambridge University Press, 2003). Some of his interests are transparency in policy planning and strategic misrepresentation wrt megaprojects.

- Towra Point Nature Reserve, Kurnell
- Botany Bay National Park
- NSW Fisheries - Towra Point Aquatic Nature Reserve
- Amid Water Shortage, Australia Looks to the Sea, Patrick Barta, The Wall Street Journal, 110308
- Ecotoxicological marine impacts from seawater desalination plants, Rachid Miriaand Abdelwahab Chouikhib, Desalination and the Environment Volume 182, Issues 1-3, 1 November 2005, Pages 403-410
- Environmental impacts of water desalination along the coastal region of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (pdf) (environmental impacts and noise pollution)
- Sydney Water, Desalination Factsheet
- Riverkeepers fighting to not mush up the "small aquatic organisms into the cooling mechanism; the resulting impingement and entrainment from these operations kill or injure billions of aquatic organisms every year." (pdf)
- Protests against desalination in Victoria, abc 140708
- Scorched Earth for water plant we might not need, SMH, 0807 (Great image of the 'scorched earth' near
Towra Point Nature Reserve!)

Image: GoogleMaps, Cape Solander , Kurnell, (NB note the ocean colour, approx. 2007)

Update 210808
- Plans to dredge Botany Bay as part of a $1 billion port expansion, taking 60 hectares of land to construct five new shipping berths. abc 190808
Update 300808
- "Australia could be using 400 per cent more energy to supply its drinking water by 2030 if the policy trend towards seawater desalination were to continue...seawater desalination was likened to a petrol-guzzling "six cylinder" family car by one of Australia's top water bureaucrats at a major summit in Melbourne." The Age 290808
- On offshore drilling platforms in the coastal path of hurricanes, the ecological and economic damage. Science Daily 290808
- What's the Deal With Offshore Drilling? Will it do any good at all? Jacob Leibenluft, Slate, 120808 (A good overview of the environmental impacts of offshore industrial activities)
Update 091008
- Peak Energy also was concerned about the impact on the sea dragons at Kurnell.
- Water and Desalination Factories by M. Barlow, Environmental Folly
- Climate-caused acidity of oceans, creates a noisier environment for whales, apart from the construction and operation noise of such a large infrastructure (click graphic!)

08 August 2008

Hindering the physical and neurological development of children

As reported before: Extended time, flat on the back, lacking sensual interaction is a form of deprivation for developing human beings. The average child might now spend extended time in a 'convenient' capsule. “Parents are not picking up their infants when the infants are awake... you get a stroller and car seat combo. And because the car seat snaps in and out of the stroller and the vehicle, often the baby simply stays put after reaching a destination.” These “mobility” gadgets might appear as a convenient life saver” for parents in their 4x4s/cars.

For the capsule-bound and interaction-deprived infant it often means:

In recent years, craniofacial centers and primary care providers reported a dramatic increase of up to 600 percent in referrals for misshapen heads.” Various service industries and products (eg cranial helmets) have sprung up, promising 'corrections' of the unintentional cranial modification. The hindered development of the neurological network will most likely be a life-long handicap.

Experts are urging “parents and caregivers to ensure that babies get enough "tummy time" throughout the day while they are awake and supervised. Quality interaction is needed to produce a human being through interactive behaviour. "Increasing the amount of time your baby lies on his or her tummy promotes muscle development in the neck and shoulders; helps prevent tight neck muscles and the development of flat areas on the back of the baby's head; and helps build the muscles baby needs to roll, sit and crawl" "It's important to get our infants out of devices that constrain mobility and onto their tummies so they can focus on neck muscle balance as they interact with their caregivers," “We're going to have to be more actively involved with them” - beyond a 'rotate daily'.

Have a look at the Manly poodle & pram parade, check out the adults' active interaction with their mobile or the dog/s. In the eateries, do the kids stare at the wall, while the grown-ups are interacting with each other and the environment?

Some cafes/eateries in Europe have introduced pram parking at the front door, fold it up and into a slot. The baby/or multiples are then carried or walked to the area where the group wishes to engage with one another.

Experts urge parents/caregivers to facilitate mobility for their infants and not constrain mobility. Craniofacial deformities and a deficient neurological network can be prevented. 'Activities to Help You Position, Carry, Hold and Play with Your Baby' advises on basic interaction.

1. Heinrich Zille, Children practicing handstand via Zeno
2 Edward James Muggeridge, Healthy child crawling via Zeno.
Edward James Muggeridge, Healthy child crawling via Zeno
4 Heinrich Zille, Children practicing handstand via Zeno

-Child Development: Lack Of Time On Tummy Shown To Hinder Achievement, American Physical -Therapy Association (070808)
-Intentional head molding, head flattening or headshaping and other body hacks
- More on the child's development guided by interpersonal communication (language development and though) and culture via Lev Vygotsky

New study possibly links cognitive and motor delays with 'flat head syndrome' in young babies 15022010