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News Article | April 23, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

In this undated photo provided by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation a humpback whale bears injuries and wounds consistent with vessel strikes. A new study in the journal Marine Mammal Science said whale ship strikes might be more common than previously suspected sighting almost 15 percent of humpback whales are injured by ships strikes. (Skyler Suhrer/Whale and Dolphin Conservation via AP) PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A group of marine scientists says collisions of whales and boats off of the New England coast may be more common than previously thought. The scientists focused on the humpback whale population in the southern Gulf of Maine, a body of water off of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. They found that almost 15 percent of the whales, which come to New England to feed every spring, had injuries or scarring consistent with at least one vessel strike. The researchers, who published their findings in the March issue of the journal Marine Mammal Science, said the work shows that the occurrence of such strikes is most likely underestimated. They also said their own figure is likely low because it does not account for whales that are killed in ship strikes. "Vessel strikes are a significant risk to both whales and to boaters," said Alex Hill, the lead author of the study, who is a scientist with conservation group Whale and Dolphin Conservation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. "Long term studies can help us figure out if our outreach programs to boaters are effective, what kind of management actions are needed and help to assess the health of the population." Other scientists have also studied whether ship strikes have the ability to negatively affect whale populations, and the subject is a source of some debate. A 2014 study of 171 blue whales in the eastern North Pacific that appeared in PLOS ONE stated that modifications to shipping lanes could "reduce the likelihood of collisions with vessels." But a study that appeared in Marine Mammal Science that same year said mitigating ship strikes would have a minimal impact on the blue whales. Off Alaska, 25 of 108 reported whale collisions that occurred between 1978 and 2011 resulted in the animal's death, according to a 2012 report in the Journal of Marine Biology. For the Gulf of Maine study, the authors reviewed more than 200,000 photos of 624 individual humpback whales over a nine-year period to evaluate them for injuries and trauma, the conservation group said. The group is recommending that marine managers develop a strategy for vessels that transit near whales to minimize collisions. Dave Wiley, a research coordinator for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, said the paper could indeed inform regulations for federal managers. Wiley, who was not involved in the study, said it was "troublesome" to see the rate of strikes so high. Scott Kraus, chief scientist for marine mammals at the New England Aquarium, was slightly more skeptical. Kraus, who was also not involved in the study, said the level of ship strikes could be overestimated in the paper because of the way the authors interpret scars and markings on humpback whales. However, Kraus said the findings are still valid. "There are a lot of whales getting hit by small vessels, and there may very well need to be some management actions around high-density whale areas," he said.


News Article | April 23, 2017
Site: hosted2.ap.org

Study: Whale and boat collisions may be more common (AP) — A group of marine scientists says collisions of whales and boats off of the New England coast may be more common than previously thought. The scientists focused on the humpback whale population in the southern Gulf of Maine, a body of water off of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. They found that almost 15 percent of the whales, which come to New England to feed every spring, had injuries or scarring consistent with at least one vessel strike. The researchers, who published their findings in the March issue of the journal Marine Mammal Science, said the work shows that the occurrence of such strikes is most likely underestimated. They also said their own figure is likely low because it does not account for whales that are killed in ship strikes. "Vessel strikes are a significant risk to both whales and to boaters," said Alex Hill, the lead author of the study, who is a scientist with conservation group Whale and Dolphin Conservation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. "Long term studies can help us figure out if our outreach programs to boaters are effective, what kind of management actions are needed and help to assess the health of the population." Other scientists have also studied whether ship strikes have the ability to negatively affect whale populations, and the subject is a source of some debate. A 2014 study of 171 blue whales in the eastern North Pacific that appeared in PLOS ONE stated that modifications to shipping lanes could "reduce the likelihood of collisions with vessels." But a study that appeared in Marine Mammal Science that same year said mitigating ship strikes would have a minimal impact on the blue whales. Off Alaska, 25 of 108 reported whale collisions that occurred between 1978 and 2011 resulted in the animal's death, according to a 2012 report in the Journal of Marine Biology. For the Gulf of Maine study, the authors reviewed more than 200,000 photos of 624 individual humpback whales over a nine-year period to evaluate them for injuries and trauma, the conservation group said. The group is recommending that marine managers develop a strategy for vessels that transit near whales to minimize collisions. Dave Wiley, a research coordinator for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, said the paper could indeed inform regulations for federal managers. Wiley, who was not involved in the study, said it was "troublesome" to see the rate of strikes so high. Scott Kraus, chief scientist for marine mammals at the New England Aquarium, was slightly more skeptical. Kraus, who was also not involved in the study, said the level of ship strikes could be overestimated in the paper because of the way the authors interpret scars and markings on humpback whales. However, Kraus said the findings are still valid. "There are a lot of whales getting hit by small vessels, and there may very well need to be some management actions around high-density whale areas," he said.


Mussoline S.E.,Northeast Fisheries Science Center | Mussoline S.E.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Risch D.,Northeast Fisheries Science Center | Hatch L.T.,Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary | And 4 more authors.
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2012

Ship strikes are a major cause of anthropogenic mortality for the endangered North Atlantic right whale Eubalaena glacialis. Year-round data on animal presence are critical to managing ship strike mortality. Marine autonomous recording units were deployed throughout the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS, Massachusetts Bay, USA) for 13 mo from January 2006 to February 2007 and on Jeffreys Ledge (JL, Gulf of Maine, USA) for 7 mo from November 2004 to May 2005 to determine whether passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) can improve information on right whale occurrence. Automated detection and manual review were used to determine presence and absence of right whale up-calls. In SBNMS, up-calls were detected year round, except during July and August, and calling rates were highest from January through May, peaking in April. In JL, up-calls occurred throughout all recording months, with the highest numbers from November through February. Up-calls were heard extensively in the wintertime throughout SBNMS and JL, suggesting that these areas are important overwintering grounds for right whales. Additionally, up-calls showed a strong diel trend in both areas, with significantly more calls occurring during twilight than dark and light periods. These data indicate that right whales are present more often and over longer time periods in the western Gulf of Maine than previously thought using conventional visual techniques. Finally, this study demonstrates the utility of PAM in providing a detailed and long-term picture of right whale presence in an area that poses a significant risk of anthropogenic mortality. © Inter-Research 2012.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

New York (February 15, 2017) - Scientists and government officials met at the United Nations today to consider possible solutions to a global problem: how to protect whale species in their most important marine habitats that overlap with shipping lanes vital to the economies of many of the world's nations. The event titled "At The Crossroads: Global Shipping Lanes and Whale Conservation" is part of the 2017 IUCN/WCS Knowledge Dialogue Series that will promote discussions among various stakeholders on international sustainable development challenges. This preparatory conference will feed into important decisions made by delegates on oceans and marine issues at the upcoming UN Oceans Conference on June 5-9, 2017. "Most species of great whale are affected by shipping activities in the form of potential ship strikes and underwater noise," said WCS President and CEO Dr. Cristián Samper, who provided welcoming remarks for the event. "The challenge of finding solutions on how best to protect these marine mammals in busy waterways is a global one, and international collaboration is the key to formulating effective solutions. Today's discussions on this issue are timely and will help pave the way for a formal call to action by UN delegates in June." Samper was joined by His Excellency Peter Thomson of Fiji, President of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly and a panel of experts from government agencies, scientific organizations, and the shipping industry. The event was organized by the Government of France, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society). Most whale species are still recovering from the impacts of centuries of commercial whaling and, although largely protected by a global commercial whaling ban, are now threatened by a host of new dangers, including collisions with ocean-going vessels, ocean noise, entanglement in fishing gear, and other factors. Moderated by Dr. Greg Silber of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the panel discussed the scope and scale of impacts of the shipping industry on whales, focusing specifically on the threats of collisions and increasing low-frequency noise levels from commercial ships. The participants then reviewed a number of case studies from regions around the world--Africa's Gulf of Guinea, Sri Lanka, Chile, Arctic waters, and seascapes along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States--as a means of assessing the current state of knowledge on the overlap between shipping networks and biologically important areas for whales. Panel members also discussed new technologies, emerging research and management needs, and the importance of identifying best practices for balancing the needs of shipping and whale conservation objectives. "We have a real opportunity on the global stage this week and in the coming months to work with governments, industry, and conservation organizations to secure concrete actions that will benefit whales and the marine environment," said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS's Ocean Giants Program and a panel participant. "Collectively we have been evaluating impacts from ship-strikes and noise for several decades, with some clear strides made in reducing impacts," said Dr. Brandon Southall, President and Senior Scientist for SEA Inc. "But now is the time to push forward using powerful new monitoring and mitigation technologies, and building new international partnerships like those forged here in New York." Other participants and panel members for the event were: Dr. Dave Wiley, Research Coordinator for NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary; Kathy Metcalf, President and CEO of the Chamber of Shipping in America; Fredrik Haag of the International Maritime Organization; Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme; and Jason Patlis, Executive Director of WCS's Marine Conservation Program. MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world's oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.


Schmidt V.,University of New Hampshire | Weber T.C.,University of New Hampshire | Wiley D.N.,Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary | Johnson M.P.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering | Year: 2010

A long-baseline (LBL) acoustic system has been developed for the tracking of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) that have been tagged with digital acoustic recording devices (DTAGs), providing quantitative observations of submerged whale behavior during bubble net feeding. The system includes three high-frequency acoustic sources deployed from small boats that follow the whale after the animal has been tagged. Integrated global positioning systems (GPSs) provide positioning and synchronized operation of the sources. Time-encoded acoustic signals from the sources are recorded along with whale vocalizations and ambient noise on the whale tag. Time-of-flight measurements, as measured by the tag acoustic data, are converted to range from the whale to each source with a measured sound-speed profile. A nonlinear least squares solution is then solved for the whale's position with a nominal positional fix rate of once per second. The system is demonstrated with data collected from a tagged animal in summer 2007. Dead-reckoned track generation methods commonly used in previous studies are shown to capture the qualitative nature of the whale track, albeit with poor absolute positional accuracy, and to distort the track when the whale's movement is predominantly vertical. In contrast, the LBL data can provide quantitative measures of whale behavior. Transit speeds between bubble net feeding events for this case study are found to range from 0.7 to 1.9 ṁ s-1(n=8). The mean diameter of bubble net curtains are measured to range from 9.6 to 10.9 m. Whale speeds during bubble net rotations vary from 1.0 to 1.9 ṁ s-1 (n=6). © 2005 IEEE.


Hatch J.M.,Integrated Statistics Inc | Wiley D.,Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary | Murray K.T.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Welch L.,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Conservation Letters | Year: 2016

Identifying the overlap of commercial fishing grounds and seabird habitat can suggest areas of high bycatch risk and inform management and mitigation measures. We used Bayesian state space modeling to describe the movements of 10 satellite-tagged Great Shearwaters and a bivariate kernel density technique to investigate spatial overlap with commercial fishing effort to predict areas of high bycatch in the Gulf of Maine. We then used contemporaneous fishery observer data to test the validity of our predictions, highlighting an area constituting 1% of the Gulf of Maine as having the highest bycatch risk that accounted for 50% of observed takes. Fishery observer data also provided insights into characteristics of the seabird-fishery interactions. Our results indicate that a relatively small number of satellite-tagged seabirds, when combined with fishery-dependent data, can lead to identifying high-bycatch areas, particular fishing practices that might increase risk, and fishing communities that could be targeted for education/mitigation. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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