Wednesday, October 1, 2014

35,000 Walrus Come Ashore In Alaska Due To Climate Change

35,000 walrus come ashore in northwest Alaska

Associated Press
In this aerial photo taken on Sept. 23, 2014 and released by NOAA, some 1500 walrus are gather on the northwest coast of Alaska. Pacific walrus looking for places to rest in the absence of sea ice are coming to shore in record numbers, according to NOAA. © AP Photo/NOAA, Corey Accardo In this aerial photo taken on Sept. 23, 2014 and released by NOAA, some 1500 walrus are gather on the northwest coast of Alaska. Pacific walrus looking for places to rest in… ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Pacific walrus that can't find sea ice for resting in Arctic waters are coming ashore in record numbers on a beach in northwest Alaska.
An estimated 35,000 walrus were photographed Saturday about 5 miles north of Point Lay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Point Lay is an Inupiat Eskimo village 300 miles southwest of Barrow and 700 miles northwest of Anchorage.
The enormous gathering was spotted during NOAA's annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey, spokeswoman Julie Speegle said by email. The survey is conducted with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that oversees offshore lease sales.
Andrea Medeiros, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said walrus were first spotted Sept. 13 and have been moving on and off shore. Observers last week saw about 50 carcasses on the beach from animals that may have been killed in a stampede, and the agency was assembly a necropsy team to determine their cause of death.
"They're going to get them out there next week," she said.
The gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.
Pacific walrus spend winters in the Bering Sea. Females give birth on sea ice and use ice as a diving platform to reach snails, clams and worms on the shallow continental shelf.
Unlike seals, walrus cannot swim indefinitely and must rest. They use their tusks to "haul out," or pull themselves onto ice or rocks.
As temperatures warm in summer, the edge of the sea ice recedes north. Females and their young ride the edge of the sea ice into the Chukchi Sea, the body of water north of the Bering Strait.
In recent years, sea ice has receded north beyond shallow continental shelf waters and into Arctic Ocean water, where depths exceed 2 miles and walrus cannot dive to the bottom.
Walrus in large numbers were first spotted on the U.S. side of the Chukchi Sea in 2007. They returned in 2009, and in 2011, scientists estimated 30,000 walruses along 1 kilometer of beach near Point Lay.
Young animals are vulnerable to stampedes when a group gathers nearly shoulder-to-shoulder on a beach. Stampedes can be triggered by a polar bear, human hunter or low-flying airplane. The carcasses of more than 130 mostly young walruses were counted after a stampede in September 2009 at Alaska's Icy Cape.
The World Wildlife Fund said walrus have also been gathering in large groups on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea.
"It's another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss," said Margaret Williams, managing director of the group's Arctic program, by phone from Washington, D.C. "The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change."
This summer, the sea ice's annual low point was the sixth smallest since satellite monitoring began in 1979.
In this aerial photo taken on Sept. 27, 2014, and provided by NOAA, some 35,000 walrus gather on shore near Point Lay, Alaska. Pacific walrus looking for places to rest in the absence of sea ice are coming to shore in record numbers on Alaska's northwest coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirms an estimated 35,000 walrus wer photographed Saturday about 700 miles northwest of Anchorage. The enormous gathering was spotted during NOAA's annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey. © AP Photo/NOAA, Corey Accardo In this aerial photo taken on Sept. 27, 2014, and provided by NOAA, some 35,000 walrus gather on shore near Point Lay, Alaska. Pacific walrus looking for places to rest in the…

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Whales Have Won!

The Whales Have Won! — ICJ Rules Japan’s Southern Ocean Whaling ‘Not For Scientific Research’

Sea Shepherd Applauds the World Court for Protecting the Whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary
The International Court of JusticeThe International Court of Justice
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In a stunning victory for the whales, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague announced their binding decision today in the landmark case of Australia v. Japan, ruling that Japan’s JARPA II whaling program in the Antarctic is not for scientific purposes and ordering that all permits given under JARPA II be revoked. The news was applauded and celebrated by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA and Sea Shepherd Australia, both of which have directly intervened against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean.
Representing Sea Shepherd in the courtroom to hear the historic verdict were Captain Alex Cornelissen, Executive Director of Sea Shepherd Global and Geert Vons, Director of Sea Shepherd Netherlands. They were accompanied by Sea Shepherd Global’s Dutch legal counsel.
The case against Japan was heard by the ICJ in July of last year to decide whether Japan is in breach of its international obligations in implementing the JARPA II “research” program in the Southern Ocean, and to demand that Japan cease implementation of JARPA II and revoke any related permits until Japan can make assurances that their operations conform with international law.
In a vote of 12 to 4, the ICJ ruled that the scientific permits granted by Japan for its whaling program were not scientific research as defined under International Whaling Commission regulations. It ordered that Japan revoke the scientific permits given under JARPA II and refrain from granting any further permits under that program.
A minke whale spyhops in the middle of iceA minke whale spyhops in the middle of ice
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Prior to the verdict, there had been some speculation that the ICJ would not permit the hunting of endangered fin and humpback whales, but it would compromise and allow the hunting of minke whales. However, it has been Sea Shepherd’s contention all along that — no matter the species — no whales should be killed, especially in a sanctuary. Sanctuary means “a place of refuge or safety; a nature reserve” where animals are protected. To allow killing in an internationally designated sanctuary is to make a mockery of international agreements made by those countries who established the sanctuary in 1994. At that time, 23 countries supported the agreement and Japan was the only IWC member to oppose it.
Even the Ambassador from Japan to the U.S., Kenichiro Sasae, during a public meeting in Los Angeles in December 2013 attended by representatives of Sea Shepherd USA, had this to say about whales and whaling: ”As an individual, I like whales and if you go out and see the whales, there is no reason for us to kill this lovely animal. But it’s history and it’s politics, I would say. There are a small number of Japanese people still trying to get this won. But mainstream Japanese are not eating whale anymore.” At the same meeting, Ambassador Sasae stated that Japan will abide by the ICJ ruling.
Listen to the Ambassador's comments below

Read the transcript here
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s international volunteer crew stood on the frontlines in the hostile and remote waters of Antarctica for eight years and then Sea Shepherd Australia took up that gauntlet for the last two years and will keep confronting Japanese whalers in Antarctica until we can once and for all bring an end to the killing in this internationally designated “safety zone” for whales. Over the years, Sea Shepherd has been the only organization to directly intervene against Japan’s illegal commercial whaling conducted under the guise of research, with their claims of research globally questioned. Indeed, Sea Shepherd has been the only thing standing between majestic whales and the whalers’ harpoons, as these internationally protected species — many of them pregnant — migrate through Antarctic waters each year.
“With today’s ruling, the ICJ has taken a fair and just stance on the right side of history by protecting the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the vital marine ecosystem of Antarctica, a decision that impacts the international community and future generations,” said Captain Alex Cornelissen of Sea Shepherd Global.
“Though Japan’s unrelenting harpoons have continued to drive many species of whales toward extinction, Sea Shepherd is hopeful that in the wake of the ICJ’s ruling, it is whaling that will be driven into the pages of the history books,” he said.
“Despite the moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan has continued to claim the lives of thousands of the gentle giants of the sea in a place that should be their safe haven,” said Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson. “Sea Shepherd and I, along with millions of concerned people around the world, certainly hope that Japan will honor this ruling by the international court and leave the whales in peace.”
Sea Shepherd Global will have the ships prepared to return to the Southern Ocean in December 2014 should Japan choose to ignore this ruling. If the Japanese whaling fleet returns, Sea Shepherd crew will be there to uphold this ruling against the pirate whalers of Japan.
Read the full judgment from the International Court of Justice here:
Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) - Judgment of 31 March 2014