Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Marine mammals need protection

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2011) — Preserving just 4 percent of the ocean could protect crucial habitat for the vast majority of marine mammal species, from sea otters to blue whales, according to researchers at Stanford University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Of the 129 species of marine mammals on Earth, including seals, dolphins and polar bears, approximately one-quarter are facing extinction, the study said.

"It's important to protect marine mammals if you want to keep the ocean's ecosystems functional," said study co-author Paul Ehrlich, professor of biology and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford. "Many of them are top predators and have impacts all the way through the ecosystem. And they're also beautiful and interesting."

It's hard to believe that so little could make such a big difference. Surely we can commit to that for a minimum and work up from there.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Marine Mammal Center marks 10,000 releases

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. (AP) -- Two juvenile California sea lions paused for a moment at the edge of the sea, each raising their whiskered faces toward the silvery water before sliding in to freedom.

For the Marine Mammal Center crew standing behind the rehabilitated pinnipeds on Thursday, it was a significant day: rescued sea lion No. 10,000, nicknamed Milestone, and 10,001, Zodiac Girl, had been nursed back to health and sent back to the wild where they belong.

"There's always some attachment. There's always some animal that captures your heart," said Shelbi Stoudt, the center staffer who organizes these regular releases. "It's a bittersweet feeling because you're sending them back home but you also don't get to see them anymore."

This photo shows the orange tag placed on rehabilitated animals. We see orange tags occasionally on the beach at Piedras Blancas. More photos are on the HuffPo site linked above and at The Marine Mammal Center site.

The count to 10,000 includes all releases, elephant seals as well. The fact is, about 97 percent of the mammals rescued are sea lions, so the numbers aren't all that far off.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

20 Important Marine Conservation Sites

From sea otters to blue whales, marine mammals are under stress from climate change, ocean acidification, hunting and other threats. Researchers have identified 20 important sites around the world where they say conservation efforts should concentrate.

Marine mammals are widely distributed in the oceans and some freshwater locations, but 11 of the conservation sites are home to creatures found nowhere else, according to the study led by Sandra Pompa of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

The scientists' abstract states:

We identified 20 global key conservation sites for all marine (123) and freshwater (6) mammal species based on their geographic ranges. We created geographic range maps for all 129 species and a Geographic Information System database for a 46,184 1° x 1° grid-cells, ∼10,000-km2. Patterns of species richness, endemism, and risk were variable among all species and species groups. Interestingly, marine mammal species richness was correlated strongly with areas of human impact across the oceans. Key conservation sites in the global geographic grid were determined either by their species richness or by their irreplaceability or uniqueness, because of the presence of endemic species. Nine key conservation sites, comprising the 2.5% of the grid cells with the highest species richness, were found, mostly in temperate latitudes, and hold 84% of marine mammal species. In addition, we identified 11 irreplaceable key conservation sites, six of which were found in freshwater bodies and five in marine regions. These key conservation sites represent critical areas of conservation value at a global level and can serve as a first step for adopting global strategies with explicit geographic conservation targets for Marine Protected Areas.

The nine sites picked for their species richness were along the coasts of Baja California, much of the eastern coast of the Americas (the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and including coastal areas of Cuba, Hispaniola, Colombia and Venezuela), Peru, Argentina, Northwestern Africa, South Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Currently the most endangered marine mammal is the vaquita, a porpoise that lives in the northern section of the Gulf of California, Pompa said. They look peaceful in this picture from www.worldwidewildlife.blogspot.com.

The coast of California is such a special place. Our elephant seals are not endangered but they are precious.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Healing properties of blubber

Discovery News reports:

When it comes to bouncing back from injuries, dolphins may be a step ahead of most mammals, including humans.

In fact, the same fatty layer that insulates them also lends itself to faster recoveries from wounds. Michael Zasloff of Georgetown University suggests in a recent journal letter that studying dolphin blubber may yield insights into better medical treatments for skin injuries in the future.

Perhaps it's true for elephant seals, too. I've wondered how seals could survive the horrific injuries they sustain and live to tell the tale. This one who slept peacefully on the beach at Piedras Blancas must have been nearly bitten in half.