Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘whales’

Humpback Whales Increasing in Waters Near NYC

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Humpback Whale feeding off New York City's Rockaway Peninsula. Photo Credit: BBC News

Humpback Whale feeding off New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula. Photo Credit: BBC News

Humpback Whales were spotted 87 times from whale-watching boats near New York City this year, and by cataloging the whales’ markings, at least 19 different humpbacks have been identified in the waters off the city. Naturalists aboard whale-watching boats have seen humpbacks in the Atlantic Ocean within a mile of the Rockaway peninsula, part of New York’s borough of Queens, within sight of Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

 

In 2012, there were 15 sightings; in 2013, 33; and this year there were 87 sightings totaling 106 humpbacks.

 

It’s not crystal clear why humpbacks, which can be 50 feet long and weigh 40 tons, are returning to New York’s shores, where they were abundant before they and other whale species were nearly destroyed by whaling.

 

Associated Press Reporter Jim Fitzgerald investigates the sightings:

 

Learn more:

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Ebola of the Sea? Dolphins Still Dying Off Coast

Friday, November 14th, 2014

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

oct271

A live bottlenose dolphin on Tobay Beach in Nassau County, New York. (Photo Credit: APP/Riverhead Foundation for Research and Preservation)

Bottlenose Dolphins, their numbers impacted last year from a nasty virus that rivals the death rate of Ebola in West Africa, are still dying, researchers have found.

The outbreak of morbillivirus, a measles-like virus that causes pneumonia, skin lesions and brain infections, has killed roughly twice as many bottlenose dolphins as the last big outbreak in 1987-88. In New Jersey, 151 bottlenose dolphins died last year — nearly 10 times this year’s toll so far, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.

Morbillivirus is highly contagious. It’s spread through respiration (via blowholes) and direct contact. Experts think the virus may also be spread through skin contact.

Asbury Park Press Reporter Todd B. Bates explores the unusual mortality event:

Learn more:

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Week (Part 5 of a 5-part Series)

Friday, May 30th, 2014

With Memorial Day Weekend upon us, summer is unofficially here for New Jerseyans. That means plenty of tourists enjoying shore, sand, surf, and sun – but it also means other types of annual summer visitors to our coast: bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and whales. However, what may be inspiring sightings from a healthy distance can become tragic encounters when marine animals become stranded or entangled in nets.

This story marks the fifth of five blog stories spotlighting New Jersey’s marine mammals and sea turtles – and educating people how to help animals in need, rather than make a bad situation worse.

Part 1, Monday, revealed the bottlenose dolphin die-off striking the Eastern Seaboard. Part 2, on Tuesday, featured a Question-and-Answer on the dolphin mortality event with NOAA’s Mendy Garron. Part 3, on Wednesday, looked at how people can safely help stranded wildlife. Part 4, yesterday, investigated the fascinating condition of cold-stunned sea turtles. Part 5, today’s blog entry, discusses the importance of reporting marine mammal and sea turtle sightings and how to do so.


MARINE MAMMAL & SEA TURTLE WEEK: Reporting Your Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Sightings

By Michael J. Davenport, Marine Species & GIS Programs Manager

Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) staff work with the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) to manage and populate the state’s official database of rare wildlife, known as Biotics. Currently, this database contains over 39,000 animal and plant records within New Jersey. ENSP and CWF currently collect and enter data for the state’s 182 endangered, threatened, and special concern species.whaleCWF_2014edit

Although much of the information within Biotics on imperiled species is received from CWF and ENSP biologists, a great deal of useful data is also submitted by the public since, although NJ is a relatively small state, the biologists are unable to survey all areas at all times. The biologists rely on these “citizen scientists” to help them monitor areas which they are unable to and/or locate the presence of species in areas in which they were previously unknown to occur. Wildlife watchers who observe rare wildlife may report such observations by submitting a Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form which then gets processed and mapped by CWF staff.

Rare species data within the Biotics database plays a critical role in wildlife and habitat conservation within New Jersey. It is used for a number of scientific and conservation efforts such as the state’s Landscape Project and Critical Wildlife Habitat Mapping, environmental review, research (GIS modeling), status review (determining whether a non-listed species should become listed as endangered or threatened and vice versa), and it also assists biologists in targeting future survey efforts to new areas.

A Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form is available on ENSP’s website for download as well as instructions for completing the form – there is also a Marine Wildlife Sighting Report Form, specifically for reporting sighting of marine mammals and sea turtles. A complete list of all of the species tracked by the state can be downloaded here.

Reporting your rare wildlife observation is easy. Simply complete the form, attach a map of where the animal was observed (a map is not necessary for marine sightings; geographic coordinates may be submitted instead), as well as any photographs taken, and then mail or e-mail the form and any additional documentation to ENSP at the address provided on the form. For more details about the state’s rare species mapping, please visit our webpage.

An injured seal ashore in Ocean Grove, NJ. © Michael J. Davenport

An injured seal ashore in Ocean Grove, NJ. © Michael J. Davenport

Observations of dead, dying, or stranded marine mammals or sea turtles should be reported to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center at 609-266-0538. Keep in mind, however, that a seal on the beach is not necessarily sick or injured. Resting on the beach is normal behavior for seals. They may haul-out onto beaches, jetties, or floating docks to rest or escape predators. So, a seal on land is not necessarily a seal in distress. Obvious indications of illness or injury are open wounds, entangled fishing line, or lack of responsiveness to their surroundings.

 

Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Week (Part 3 of a 5-part Series)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

With Memorial Day Weekend upon us, summer is unofficially here for New Jerseyans. That means plenty of tourists enjoying shore, sand, surf, and sun – but it also means other types of annual summer visitors to our coast: bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and whales. However, what may be inspiring sightings from a healthy distance can become tragic encounters when marine animals become stranded or entangled in nets.

This story marks the third of five blog stories spotlighting New Jersey’s marine mammals and sea turtles – and educating people how to help animals in need, rather than make a bad situation worse.

Part 1, on Monday, revealed the bottlenose dolphin die-off striking the Eastern Seaboard. Part 2, yesterday, featured a Question-and-Answer on the dolphin mortality event with NOAA’s Mendy Garron. Part 4, tomorrow, will investigate the fascinating condition of cold-stunned sea turtles. And Part 5, on Friday, will reveal the importance of reporting sightings – both for live or dead marine mammals.


MARINE MAMMAL & SEA TURTLE WEEK: Encounter a stranded marine mammal? Here’s how to help (Hint: Don’t try to be a hero!)

By Jennifer Dexter, Conservation Intern

Last year, over 150 marine mammal strandings occurred in New Jersey, ranging from humpback whales to harbor seals.

In order to better prepare first responders and the general public for such incidents, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ hosted the NJ Marine Mammal Stranding Workshop. For me, the biggest take home message I retained from attending this workshop was a clear one: “Don’t be the hero!”

Keeping people and their pets away from stranded marine mammals is for their safety as well as the animal's. Photo by Mike Davenport.

Keeping people and their pets away from stranded marine mammals is for their safety as well as the animal’s. Photo by Mike Davenport.

Everyone has good intentions when they attempt to ”rescue” a marine mammal stranded on the beach, but often you may be doing more harm than good. Usually, there is a good reason why the animal washed ashore, whether it be injuries or illness at fault. If you simply return the animal to the ocean, it’s likely that they will just become stranded again.

The same goes for animals in danger at sea, such as a turtle entangled in fishing nets. DO NOT go all gung-ho by jumping in the water in attempt to cut the turtle free, as you are putting the animal and yourself in danger.

Close human interaction will put the already stressed animal in defense mode. Sea turtles, such as the leatherback, can weigh more than 1,000 pounds and one thrash of their flipper can leave a human severely injured. In addition, a human can just as easily become entangled in the netting so it’s best to remain on your boat, safe out of harm’s way.

The best and most helpful thing a witness can do in New Jersey is to immediately call the Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Center (609-266-0538) and provide the following information: description of the animal, photograph from a distance, location, and description of any injuries.

Most importantly, do not touch, feed, pour water on, or cover the animal. Stand by until a MMSC staff member or local police is dispatched. From that point on, it will be up to the MMSC and the authorities to assess what measures need to be taken based on the animal’s needs. You can walk away knowing you did the right thing – and helped the animal as much as you could.

 

Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Week (Part 1 of a 5-part series)

Monday, May 26th, 2014

With Memorial Day Weekend upon us, summer is unofficially here for New Jerseyans. That means plenty of tourists enjoying shore, sand, surf, and sun – but it also means other types of annual summer visitors to our coast: bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and whales. However, what may be inspiring sightings from a healthy distance can become tragic encounters when marine animals become stranded or entangled in nets.

This story marks the first of five blog stories spotlighting New Jersey’s marine mammals and sea turtles – and educating people how to help animals in need, rather than make a bad situation worse.

Part 2, on Tuesday, will feature a Question-and-Answer on the dolphin mortality event with NOAA’s Mendy Garron. Part 3, on Wednesday, will look at how people can safely help stranded wildlife. Part 4, on Thursday, will investigate the fascinating condition of cold-stunned sea turtles. And Part 5, on Friday, will reveal the importance of reporting sightings – both for live or dead marine mammals.


MARINE MAMMAL & SEA TURTLE WEEK: Dolphin die-off kills over 1,000 bottlenose dolphins along Atlantic coast

By David Wheeler, Executive Director of Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

At least 136 bottlenose dolphins became stranded in New Jersey over the past year. Most of the strandings were fatal, and many dolphins showed lesions and other infections. Over 1,200 dolphins have stranded along the entire Eastern seaboard – a situation bleak enough that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) declared an Unusual Mortality Event.

Bottlenose dolphin. Photo by Cordell K. Brown.

Bottlenose dolphin. Photo by Cordell Brown.

The cause is Cetacean morbillivirus. About half of coastal migratory bottlenose dolphins are affected, leading to this stock’s federal classification as ‘Depleted’ under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Bottlenose dolphins were already considered species of special concern in New Jersey, and this only further threatens their population.

In stark contrast with the 136 dolphins stranded in New Jersey since last July 1, the average number of strandings in the state for a given year is 10.

The last major morbillivirus mortality event among bottlenose dolphins occurred in 1987-88, which ultimately helped lead the U.S. Congress to establish the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.

The dolphin virus was among the issues discussed atConserve Wildlife Foundation’s inaugural marine mammal stranding workshops last month at Monmouth University and Richard Stockton College.

Speakers at our recent stranding response workshops led interactive discussions to educate first responders on how to handle marine mammal and sea turtle strandings. Jen Zebrowski from Jenkinson’s Aquarium educated responders on how to identify some 13 species of marine mammals and 5 sea turtles they might encounter on the New Jersey coast. Mendy Garron, Kate Sampson and Scott Doyle from NOAA explained what a responder should do once they encounter the animal, how to make the situation safe, and the legal obligations facing first responders with a stranding.

Now we enter this summer hoping that cetacean morbillivirus will not claim nearly as many dolphins this year. Keep your fingers crossed!

Jen Zebrowski from Jenkinson’s Aquarium providing an overview of NJ's marine mammal & sea turtle species at CWF's recent stranding response workshop at Stockton College. Photo by Stephanie Feigin.

Jen Zebrowski from Jenkinson’s Aquarium providing an overview of NJ’s marine mammal & sea turtle species at CWF’s recent stranding response workshop at Stockton College. Photo by Stephanie Feigin.

Helpful Links:

Bottlenose Dolphin Field Guide

NOAA Unusual Mortality Event page for Bottlenose Dolphin Morbillivirus

NOAA Marine Mammal Stranding page

Marine Mammal Stranding Center, Brigantine, New Jersey

Jenkinson’s Aquarium