For a handful of researchers surveying marine life off British Columbia’s coast – it was a whale of a tale.
This summer, a group of biologists and Canadian Coast Guard members became the first people to report seeing endangered sei whales in Canadian waters in more than half a century.
“This was very exciting because we didn’t expect it,” said Thomas Doniol-Valcroze, a research biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
“People on my team had never seen them.”
The sei whale, one of the fastest marine mammals in the world, is part of the same family as blue and fin whales.
At one point, there were more than 60,000 sei whales in the North Pacific, but the population collapsed after whalers started targeting them. There hadn’t been a single reported sighting of a sei whale in Canadian waters since before whaling was banned in the 1960s.
A 2006 Canadian report says there were two confirmed sightings of sei whales in Pacific waters off the west coast of the United States between 1991 and 2001 but none in Canada. They are listed as endangered in Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
Doniol-Valcroze was on board the Coast Guard ship near the end of July. It used floating sonar devices to listen for whale calls under the water.
“Sei whales are so rare nobody is actually completely sure what they sound like here in the Northeast Pacific,” he said.
“We started hearing those sounds that sounded very similar to what sei whales were recorded doing elsewhere. We started hearing them more and more and that led us to finding them and seeing them for the first time many years.”
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The group saw five of the large creatures swimming amid a pod of fin whales and, using large binoculars, the teams determined they were sei whales.
The researchers were part of a 10-week survey trying to count, or estimate, all marine mammals populations in Canada’s Pacific. The survey is the first of its kind in the Pacific ever conducted by the federal government, which has done similar surveys in the Atlantic and the Arctic.
The Raincoast Conservation Foundation in B.C. conducted a Pacific marine mammal survey in 2003 and their numbers have been used for the last 15 years.
However, in 2017 the United States began enacting a specific provision under its Marine Mammal Protection Act that puts the onus on countries exporting seafood to the U.S. to prove their fisheries are not harming marine mammals. The requirement meant Canada had to update its data if it wanted to continue exporting seafood to the U.S.
The final results of the survey will not be published for a year, said Doniol-Valcroze, but he added it was quite successful. In addition to the sei whale sighting, the teams also found higher than anticipated numbers of harbour porpoises, he said.
The teams did not see enough sei whales to be able to say how many exactly are in the Pacific Ocean off the Canadian coast.
#SouthernResidentKillerWhales; #Canada’sWestCoast; #DynaTuytel #EnhancingCetaceanHabitatandObservation; #ChamberofShipping; #VancouverFraserPortAuthority; #The Species at Risk Act #BritishCokubia; #RobertLewis-Manning; #FisheriesandOceansCanadaRecoveryStrategy; #EcoJustice, #WWF-Canada, #NaturalResourcesDefenceCouncil; #MichaelJasny; #PacificPilotageAuthority; #TransportCanada; #UnitedStatesCoastGuard; #DepartmentofFisheries,Oceans; #Canadian Coast Guard
Ottawa, Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): Voluntary protective measures for Southern Resident Killer Whales on Canada’s West Coast have been proposed by a group of commercial marine shipping carriers and their agents, media reports said.
Southern Resident Killer Whales/Facebook
These volunteers are hoping that it would avoid additional regulations; while on the other hand, a group of conservation groups is taking an aim at the federal government.
For the past three years, the Chamber of Shipping and its members have participated in the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program, a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led initiative aimed at better understanding and managing the impact of shipping activities on at-risk whales throughout the southern coast of British Columbia.
Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program/Facebook
The ECHO Program had been focusing on areas based on three threat categories identified by the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Recovery Strategy.
The projects in each category are aimed at informing the development of measures to reduce threats to whales, which are mainly acoustic disturbance (underwater noise); physical disturbance (ship collisions); environmental contaminants; and the availability of prey, in particular Chinook salmon, for southern resident killer whales is critical to the species survival.
International shipping attribute to approximately 50 percent of the vessel-generated noise in the Salish Sea.
Recovery of endangered whales was supported by a successful operational trial in 2017 and the implementation of effective voluntary noise mitigation measures in 2018, which included reduction in vessel speed in Haro Strait and a lateral displacement of vessels away from known foraging areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Although more regulations are required, Robert Lewis-Manning, the Chamber’s president said that such an approach would speed up the progress in industry.
The group had acknowledged that Southern Resident killer whales face at least three anthropogenic threats including prey availability, acoustic and physical disturbance, and contaminants from the environment, said the Chamber.
Waters off the B.C. coast and a large part of the Salish Sea -- the most affected areas -- are designated as critical habitat and protected by law
Six conservation organizations including EcoJustice, WWF-Canada, and the Natural Resources Defence Council have recently filed a lawsuit against the Government of Canada claiming that it failed to implement an Emergency Protection Order under the Species at Risk Act.
“In her unprecedented 17-days of mourning, J-35, the killer whale also known as Tahlequah, showed us the devastating consequences of inaction on this issue, Ecojustice lawyer Dyna Tuytel said. “Given Minister Wilkinson and Minister McKenna’s failure to recommend emergency protections in a timely fashion, we have little choice but to turn to the courts.”
“The Species at Risk Act gives the Canadian government broad authority to protect at-risk species facing imminent threats to their survival or recovery. It is shocking that Minister Wilkinson and Minister McKenna have not yet recommended an emergency order to protect Southern Resident killer whales,” said Michael Jasny, director of marine mammal protection at Natural Resources Defense Council added. “It is difficult to imagine a species in more urgent need.”
“While our sector is supportive of action to address all anthropogenic threats, such action must be considered with a complete understanding and appreciation of the complexity of operating large commercial vessels safely as well as existing measures currently underway, all while avoiding the unintended safety, operational, or ecological consequences,” the Chamber press release stated.
The shipping industry accounts for 1.8 percent of the Canadian economy and ships move more than $200 billion worth of goods to and from global markets.
The Chamber of Shipping’s efforts to protect whales in Canada’s Pacific Gateway is supported by ocean and coastal carriers, Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Pacific Pilotage Authority, and the United States Coast Guard.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#CanadaandIndigenouspeoplesrelations#; #ClearwaterSeafoodsLtd, #Halifax; #NovaScotia, # #FiveNationsClamCompany; #ArcticSurfClamfishery; #DepartmentofFisheriesandOceans; #TotalAllowableCatch; #ExpressionofInterestprocess
Ottawa, Aug 12 (Canadian-Media): Government of Canada's decision to introduce Indigenous participation in the Arctic Surf Clam fishery -- owned by Clearwater Seafoods Ltd. based in Halifax, Nova Scotia -- that would renew relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples and increase the economic well-being of Indigenous communities, media reports said.
Arctic Surf Clam fishery/Facebook
Department of Fisheries and Oceans' (DFO) proposal to issue a fourth Arctic Surf Clam licence to Five Nations Clam Company in February 2018 was cancelled in early July as Clearwater was unclear how involved the Indigenous community was with Five Nations Clam Company leaving Clearwater with monopoly on sheefish.
Clearwater said as it reported to CBCNews that it was "ready and willing to harvest the 25 per cent of the clam quota for 2018 and 2019 in order to allow the economic benefits to remain in coastal communities while the Minister considers next steps."
In the meantime, Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to work to broaden access to this fishery.
DFO said it would launch a new Expression of Interest process to award a fourth Arctic surf clam license in spring of 2019, with a decision to be finalized by 2020.
An independent third-party will evaluate the submission and make recommendations to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enable the proponents’ readiness to implement their submissions by focusing on validating the direct benefits that will flow to Indigenous communities.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#FisheriesandOceansCanada; #RessourcesAquatiquesQuébecgroup; #MarcGarneau; #JeanPierreOuellet; #JonathanWilkinson
Rimouski, Que, Aug 9 (Canadian-Media): An announcement was made yesterday by Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, on behalf of the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Jean Pierre Ouellet, Rector of Université du Québec à Rimouski, the signing of the 2018–2028 framework agreement for collaboration in aquatic sciences, media reports said.
"Since 2016, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been making massive investments in science, particularly to increase collaboration. The Government of Canada would like to build strong partnerships with the universities and other organizations to ensure access to the best scientific data available. Today's announcements are perfectly in line with this collaborative approach," said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Canada's investment in science partnerships is to inform decision-making about the protection and management of aquatic resources in our oceans for the benefit of all Canadians.
The frequent and close research collaborations between Maurice Lamontagne Institute, Fisheries and Oceans Canada's research centre in Quebec (DFO), and Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR) for many years on research projects involving various aspects of science would be enabled by the present agreement.
The framework agreement is aimed at establishing the provisions under which DFO and UQAR develop and implement collaborative research projects on issues and priorities of common interest, for the next 10 years.
It also aims to foster exchanges and transfers of scientific expertise to enrich and complement the partners' existing expertise to better meet their respective needs.
In addition, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has announced close to $497,000 in funding over two years to the St. Lawrence ECOsystem Health Research and Observation NETwork (SECO.Net) to study the eutrophication, hypoxia and the acidification of the deep water of the St. Lawrence estuary in relation to the flow of surface water, laden with organic matter.
The funding provided to SECO.net and Ressources Aquatiques Québec comes directly from the $ 5 million Partnership Fund, as an integral part of the $ 197.1 million investment in ocean and freshwater sciences agreed upon in the 2016 budget.
Another major investment of $563,000 has been announced for the Ressources Aquatiques Québec group to study changes in the distribution of ground fish and crustaceans in the estuary and northern Gulf of St. Lawrence.
This work will improve our knowledge in order to make the best decisions in managing our resources, so that decisions can be adapted to the changes that are taking place.
“The Université du Québec à Rimouski has been, since its creation almost 50 years ago, focused on the issues that affect the regions it serves. As such, the university has made maritime issues a priority and is working closely with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Today’s announcement is a testament to this partnership, and most importantly to our commitment to continue to work collaboratively over the years to better understand and sustainably use the aquatic resources that surround us," said Jean Pierre Ouellet, Rector, Université du Québec à Rimouski.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Facebook
#Ottawa, #Kenora, #Ontario, #Quebec, #RobertD.Nault, #JonathanWilkinson, #ExperimentalLakesArea, #Long-TermEcologicalResearchProgram; #InternationalInstituteforSustainableDevelopment
Ottawa, Aug 3 (Canadian-Media): Robert D. Nault, Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Kenora, Ontario, announced today in Kenora, on behalf of the Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, to fund $4 million over four years to International Institute for Sustainable Development - Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA), media reports said.
The funding is part of the Government of Canada’s Budget 2016 commitment of $197.1 million for ocean and freshwater science and would support IISD-ELA, now in its fiftieth year of research, in data collection, analysis, its dissemination to public, academia, researchers and the government in policy decisions.
Nault, was joined in the announcement by David Lametti, M.P. for LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, Quebec.
IISD-ELA, the world’s freshwater laboratory, located in northwestern Ontario, is a unique research facility consisting of 58 small lakes and their watersheds set aside for scientific research to better understand the human impacts on the environment and on freshwater ecosystems.
“We are lucky to have this world-renowned facility in our own backyard, here in the Kenora riding," said Naut.
The funding specifically supports the Long-Term Ecological Research program to identify long-term trends and ecological changes of fisheries' health and productivity in Canadian boreal lakes.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#Humpbackwhales; #southernoceansnearAntarctica; #AriFriedlaender, #UniversityofCalifornia, #SantaCruz;
Ottawa, Jun 29 (Canadian-Media): Nearly extincted Humpback whales, who lived and had breeded in the southern oceans near Antarctica, are coming back, media reports said.
Humpback whales were nearly extincted in the late 19th and most of the 20th centuries appear to be coming back in recent years after with females having a high pregnancy rate and giving birth to more calves.
This was the result of signing of treatise to stop killing them and protections were put in place for the world’s coldest, least accessible continent.
The end of hunting has fostered the recovery of the school-bus-sized animals whose life spans are roughly comparable to ours, according to Ari Friedlaender, an associate researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the new study.
The population was believed to have been reduced to less than 10 percent of its pre-whaling levels.
To determine gender, identity and pregnancy rates, the scientists, led by Logan Pallin, a doctoral student working with Friedlaender, used darts to take small skin and blubber samples from 239 males and 268 females from 2010 to 2016 around the Western Antarctic Peninsula.
As the researchers took their surveys, the whales were often just as curious about the team as it was about them. They would swim alongside the team’s vessel, some with their babies.
Slightly more than 60 percent of the females had high progesterone levels in their blubber, indicating that they were pregnant, according to the new study, published today in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
There were more pregnant whales in recent years than earlier, according to the research. Genetic analysis indicated gender and enabled the scientists to avoid counting the same whale twice.
Although some other whale species also appear to be rebounding in the southern oceans, humpbacks seem to be faring the best, Friedlaender said.
It may have been easier for the humpbacks to recover than the bigger fin and blue whales because the humpbacks mature faster, have a short period between pregnancies, and have centralized breeding grounds.
Fin and blue whales mate in the open ocean, making it harder for them to find a match, he said.
A moratorium on commercial whaling took effect in the early 1980s, though some whaling regulations had been imposed as early as the 1940s.
Twelve countries signed a treaty in 1959 to protect the Antarctic Peninsula. Humpback whales south of the equator are no longer considered endangered, though.
A few northern populations remain on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s list of endangered animals.
For the humpbacks, climate change has been a boon. The warmer weather has been providing about 80 more ice-free days per year when these whales that prefer open water can feed on abundant stocks of tiny shrimp-like crustaceans called krill.
It is likely that a large portion of the animals alive today were born after the age of whale hunting ended, Friedlaender said.
So far, climate change around the Antarctic Peninsula has been beneficial for humpbacks, he said, providing about 80 more ice-free days per year when these whales that prefer open water can feed on abundant stocks of tiny shrimplike crustaceans called krill.
Whale researchers are concerned that this moment of health and easy access to food will be short-lived. Krill stock around Antarctica is being fished by some countries, and threatened by climate change.
Additionally, reduction in sea ice endangers krill, which feed on the underside of sea ice, said Sean Todd, the chair in marine sciences at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, who was not involved in the new research.
Krill stock around Antarctica is being fished by some countries, and threatened by climate change.
Todd said his repeated trips to Antarctica have proved to him that krill are essential to life in the southern oceans. “You either eat krill, or you eat something that eats krill,” he said. “If krill stocks collapse, then there’ll be profound changes to that region.”
Todd said the new study confirmed the growing abundance of humpbacks that he had noticed on annual trips to Antarctica.
When he first started going in the early 2000s, he would see a few humpbacks every trip in February and March.
Now, he sees them as early as December, he said, “to the point that you can lose count of how many are around you.”
He said he had also seen a smaller but obvious rebound among fin and blue whales — the planet’s largest animals — as well as the Southern right whale, a cousin to the highly endangered Northern Right Whale.
#IMAX®documentary; #Pandas; #OntarioScienceCentre; #Toronto, #Ontario; #KristenBell; #ChengduPandaBase; #China; #NewHampshire; #DrewFellman; #DavidDouglas; #WarnerBros
Toronto, June 19 (Canadian-Media): The new IMAX® documentary adventure Pandas is being shown at the Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, the only centre in whole of Ontario where IMAX® films are shown, media reports said.
Captured with IMAX cameras Kristen Bell, in this documentary film, narrates how the story about reintroducing captive-born pandas into the wild follows the life-changing journey of a special panda named Qian Qian.
“It tells the story of a team of dedicated scientists engaged in international collaboration to protect the giant panda from extinction," said Maurice Bitran, Ph.D., CEO and Chief Science Officer, Ontario Science Centre.
Dr Maurice Bitran/Ontario Science Centre
The importance of scientific research and global cooperation to a better future is highlighted by the larger than life format of IMAX film, for not only pandas but all of humankind.
The story tells of how at Chengdu Panda Base in China, captive breeding program is being taken to the next level by the scientists, to preparing captive-born cubs for the wild.
This film follows one such researcher, whose passion leads her to initiate a new technique inspired by a black bear rehabilitator in rural New Hampshire.
Official trailer of Pandas/Courtesy of Ontario Science Centre
A cross-cultural collaboration an American conservation biologist and a young assistant researcher from Inner Mongolia leads to an expedition to introduce a very curious, captiveborn female panda cub into the wild.
“The scientists at Chengdu Panda Base have dedicated their lives to creating a more secure future for the wild giant panda,” said Drew Fellman, Pandas co-director, writer and producer.
“We were honored to be there at the cusp of an exciting new program, and to witness an adorable captive-born panda cub named Qian Qian prepare for a new life in the wild. We wanted to share her adventure with the world so everyone can experience her journey, too.”
Drew Fellman with a Panda cub/Courtesy of Ontario Science Ctre
Fellman and David Douglas, the filmmakers directed the film, which Fellman wrote and produced with Douglas as director of photography.
An agency of the Government of Ontario, Ontario Science Centre, is a global leader in lifelong learning and has welcomed more than 52 million visitors since opening as a Centennial project in 1969. opened its doors in 1969.
Guided by a mission to inspire passion for the human adventure of discovery, the Ontario Science provides a vital link in Ontario’s education and innovation ecosystems and a convener of public dialogue about technology, science and society.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#NationalOceanicandAtmosphericAdministration, #CanadaWhale, #NorthAtlanticrightwhale, #NOAA, #WhaleProtection, #USCanadaWhale, #FisheriesandOceansCanada
Portland, Maine/Ottawa, May 3 (Canadian-Media): A group of Democratic senators, led by Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts asked National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that the United States should audit Canada's protection of endangered whales, media reports said.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Facebook
Due to the the grim status of North Atlantic right whales the senators put some pressure on Canada telling that out of the total number 450 right whales had died in 2017, and 12 of the deaths occurred in Canada.
A North Atlantic right whale/Wikipedia
The U.S. was concerned because it imported more than $3.3 billion worth of Canadian seafood in 2017.
In an April 25 letter to the NOAA the group of senators said that the agency should conduct a review of Canada’s right whale conservation standards, and prohibit some Canadian seafood imports if they are too weak.
U.S. officials warned that after a deadly year, that right whales could soon become extinct.
Canada believed it is making diligent efforts to protect the whales, and also wants to avoid negative effects on the countries’ trade relationship, said Lauren Sankey, a spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (FAOC).
Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Facebook
“Determining as quickly as possible whether Canada’s fishermen are being held to the same level of accountability as those in America is a critical step for taking swift action to protect this treasured species,” Markey said.
Considering that two of the biggest threats to right whales are entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with large ships, Sankey added that Canada had just recently introduced new protection measures, such as fishing gear reductions.
But Regina Asmutis-Silvia, a biologist with Plymouth, Massachusetts-based marine mammal advocacy group Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said blaming on Canada might not be the best approach and added,
“The U.S. should be watching to see if the mitigation Canada implemented is effective, but we also have to acknowledge that right whales have died on our watch, too,” Asmutis-Silvia said.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#SoundtheAlarm, #KieranCox, #GlobalChangeBiology, #FrancisJuanes
Victoria (B.C.), Apr 4 (Canadian-Media): According to a new study entitled Sound the Alarm, led by the University of Victoria, reveals that besides plastics and oil aren't the only kind of pollution to have a negative impact on aquatic species. human-caused noise is also changing the ability of fish to forage, reproduce and avoid predators, media reports said.
"In terms of fish behaviour and physiology, it's negative responses across the board," said Kieran Cox, a doctoral student at the University of Victoria, British Columbia (B.C.).
The research conducted by the collaborative team, led by Cox and fish ecologist, Francis Juanes, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology.
They reviewed 42 studies involving human-caused underwater noise and its impact on fish.
Studies have already been conducted by researchers regarding the impact of underwater noise pollution on larger creatures like killer whales, but the research team says fish also pay a price for living in increasingly noisy waters.
Approximately 700 fish species reportedly use sound to communicate.
The researchers found that even the noise from a small boat motor can be disruptive.
"Their foraging behaviour, their perception of predation, all of these kinds of things are affected," said Cox.
And, just with like humans, unexpected noises can be frightening for fish.
"Stress in fish is going up, across species and across experimental conditions," he said.
Cox believes underwater noise pollution is a problem that needs more attention. The study found that noise in the ocean has been increasing steadily in the past few decades.
“We are only beginning to understand fish communication and the implications of anthropogenic noise,” says UVic biologist Francis Juanes, who is also the Liber Ero Chair in Fisheries Research. “It’s an understudied area that requires more research to determine the extent of the problem and potential solutions.”
More studies are underway, including research on the impact of noise on British Columbia's salmon populations.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced an investment of $3.1 million last week, which will reportedly help increase our understanding of the impact of underwater noise on our marine environment.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#endangeredwhales, #NorthAtlanticrightwhales, #GulfofSt.Lawrence, #DominicLeBlanc, #MarcGarneau, #TonyaWimmer
Ottawa/Washington, Apr 3 (Canadian-Media) : At least 18 of the endangered whales have been found dead since last year, 12 in Canadian waters and six in U.S waters, federal government reported last week, media reports said.
The primary cause of these deaths scientists believed was human activity including shipping and fishing.
New measures to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales, including an earlier start to the snow crab fishing season in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence -- outlet of the North American Great Lakes via the Saint Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean, -- fixed and temporary closures where whales are spotted, and an earlier speed restriction for ships in the western gulf.
Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Transport Canada Minister Marc Garneau indicated the measures are intended to reduce the risk of whale becoming entangled in fishing gear or being struck by ships.
Other measures reported to be taken include, restriction of the speed of the vessels when travelling in the western part of the gulf again this year, will take effect on April 28, instead of Aug. 11, said Marc Garneau and the mandatory speed limit will remain in place until Nov. 15.
These new measures were welcomed by Tonya Wimmer, director of the Marine Animal Response Society and reportedly expressed the changes will help protect many other species as well.
"If we continued to really not do much at all, there are good odds those animals would disappear from this planet," she said.
There were reportedly only about 450 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, and of those, only about 100 are reproducing females.
"So I think the announcements today were very much a reflection of the concern of everyone...we really do have to raise the bar in terms of putting in place measures to protect them."
Although no new calves have been spotted yet this year in the calving grounds off Florida, LeBlanc dismissed any suggestion that the government's measures are too late.
"I'm never pessimistic about these things," he said and added there was an urgency to act quickly.
LeBlanc said all snow crab fishing fleets in the Gulf of St. Lawrence fishing region known as area 12 will begin simultaneously as soon as it was safe to do so.
The season normally begins around mid-April, but a Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker is expected to be in northern New Brunswick later this week or early next week to open some of the fishing harbours, he said.
"We're doing everything we can to open the season as soon as possible," said LeBlanc.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)