Whales in the North Sea have been beaching themselves. Since the beginning of the year 30 whales have been found on beaches in the UK, Netherlands, France and Germany. Thirteen of them washed up on Germany’s northern coast.
Necropsies to try to determine the cause of death for these leviathans were inconclusive but biologists were shocked to find so much plastic garbage in their stomachs. One whale had a 13 metre(43 ft.) fishing net in its stomach. These large whales depend on squid for their diet.
While there was a great deal of plastic garbage in the dead whales’ stomachs, it did not appear to be the cause of death. The whales, all males between 10 and 15 years, were in generally good condition. The best guess is that the whales during their migration north took a wrong turning and found themselves in shallow water. Once they were stuck on the sand, their great weight doomed them.
Whales can die from a variety of human causes. Collisions with freighters, disorientation from loud sonic booms, toxic pollution, hunting are a few. A large study looking at beached baby dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico which compared beached neonates in an area hard hit by the massive oil spill with some found in areas not affected by the oil. Those found in the affected area showed many more defects both externally and internally.
Those of us on the west coast of Canada have developed an affection for our resident Orca whales. The Southern resident group ranges into the US waters as well. A tagging project under the auspices of NOAA has come under suspicion as being at least partly to blame for the death of one or more of the Orcas. A 20 year old male was found washed up on the west coast of Vancouver Island with its dart still sticking out of it. The questionable practice of darting was supposed to see the dart break off leaving telemetry inside. Two other whales have gone missing.
Reports of infections around the wound sites have also been reported.
Canada Fisheries and Oceans does not use this method for tracking the endangered animals. A series of underwater listening posts track the individuals.
On a brighter note, humpback whales normally confined to the Pacific Ocean are increasingly finding their way to the Atlantic via the Arctic Ocean, meeting their long lost Atlantic cousins for the first time in about 5 000 years.
Blogger, gardener, farmer. Working toward food security and a 30 foot
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on Vancouver Island, Canada