Howard Hall’s Blue Ocean

This holiday season, I’d like to share a video by Howard Hall that epitomizes why we love the ocean so… and why we dive.  The blue whale swim by is one of the most amazing pieces of film I’ve ever seen. Here’s raising a glass to working hard to save our ocean planet and the amazing creatures who share it with us.

Happy Holidays to all!

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Whale, Dolphin Deaths Twice Normal in Gulf

Stranded spinner dolphin.: Credit: qnr via Flickr.Stranded spinner dolphin.: Credit: qnr via Flickr. The latest NOAA report on unusual strandings of whales and dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico finds they’re still dying at twice the normal rate 18 months after BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Map of strandings in relation to Deepwater Horizon well.: Predicted heat index for Friday, 22 July, 2011. Credit: NOAA.

Map of strandings in relation to Deepwater Horizon well. Credit: NOAA.

As you can see in the map above, the most heavily oiled shoreline still corresponds with the most dead whales and dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins are shown as circles and other species as squares. Premature, stillborn, or neonatal bottlenose dolphins (with actual or estimated lengths of less than 115 cm/45 inches) are shown as a circle with a black dot inside. Pink points mark the most recent week of data. Green points mark are all other cases since 1 January 2011.

All stranded cetaceans (dolphins and whales) from Franklin County, FL to the Texas/ Louisiana border.: Credit: NOAA.

All stranded cetaceans (dolphins and whales) from Franklin County, FL to the Texas/ Louisiana border.: Credit: NOAA.

Here you can see how the numbers of strandings have not yet stabilized or even begun to decline. In some cases they’re still growing. The magenta-colored bars mark strandings per month in the year 2010. The ivory-colored bars mark strandings per month so far this year.

In my Mother Jones article The BP Cover-Up last year, I wrote about the kind of long-term problems the Gulf might face not just from oil but from extreme quantities of oil in very deep water, as well as from chemical dispersant, including dispersant injected into very deep water.

Sadly, it seems that cetaceans—past, present, and future—may be bearing some of those burdens.

Marine Mammal Center Gala – San Francisco

Guest Blogger, Jeff Boehm, Executive Director, Marine Mammal Center

On Friday night, last week, some 350 people came together at the San Francisco Ferry Building to celebrate The Marine Mammal Center, to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones, and to raise money! Oh, and to have a fair amount of well-deserved fun!

With presentations by Washed Ashore artist, Angela Haseltine Pozzi, and Melissa on her team, and our own Dr. Frances Gulland in the VIP reception, inspiring videos, a heartfelt and moving speech by youth volunteer-turned adult, David Krucik and the dynamic auctioneering of the education department’s Doreen Gurrola and Biz Stone…we hit those goals, and made some Gala history for ourselves in the process!

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Consider these accomplishments and highlights… We are so thankful to Hewlett Packard, our presenting sponsor, for their tremendous sponsorship of the event—the highest we’ve received yet! For the first time in one of our fund-a-need auctions we received a $10,000 gift! And, this was from an individual who is new to our community! We invited in new co-hosts, Biz and Livia Stone, and through them gained access to a wide array of new friends and supporters. All the while, we enjoyed tremendous food, the beautiful music of the EOS ensemble, and one another’s company.

So many people make events like this a success: a board level committee, our many sponsors and in-kind contributors, the legion of volunteers and staff that lent their smarts, muscle and time to the event, the quality partners who manage the venue (gorgeous and fitting, eh?) and the guests who come to show their support! Central in the planning, was our own Kate Harle, who deserves kudos-a-plenty for the large and daunting task she took on and the event she so well delivered with professionalism and great grace. Thank you, Kate!

Oh, and the tally on raising money to help deliver an enhanced whale bus program to 5,000 school kids in under-served communities…you ask? We met our goal of 60K, and we met the total fund-raising goal of the event (we’re still tallying the final number; it may be more!)

Humpback Whales and more in the Atlantic!

Cape Cod, Massachusetts
2011 July

Special Report from Dr. Bonny Schumaker, On Wings of Care

With special thanks to Jake Levenson from IFAW.

We’re here for the week in Cape Cod, to find humpback whales for scientists who will study, track, and tag some of them with GPS transmitters for further study.  We arrived this afternoon and did a quick reconnaissance flight — and did we ever wish we had had a real camera with us! The rest of the week should be quite exciting, if today was any sign.  In less than one hour, and not even 24 miles from our ‘home’ airport of Plymouth, MA, we spotted at least a dozen humpbacks — typically alone, but in one case there were two adults and a juvenile, and in another case many adults came together to hunt cooperatively by making a “bubble net.” We also saw several Minke whales, one large fin whale, a basking shark, one large leatherback turtle, and several large schools of tuna!  Much of this was within just a few miles of the shores of Provincetown, Cape Cod, in an area of the sea known as Little Stellwagon Basin.

We grabbed our emergency “point-and-shoot” camera from the side pocket of the airplane and snapped a few photos and even one short video, shown below.  We hope to have many more photos and video of much better quality before this week is through! Weather looks good for tomorrow, a bit iffy the next day, so we’re planning a very early morning start.  Stay tuned!
Here is a short video of quite a long show that one humpback whale put on for us, as she or he put a great deal of energy into slapping the water repeatedly with one fin, making noise and waves that travelled for a very long way.

‘Washed Ashore’ ~ Plastics, Marine Life and the Sea

Artist Angela Hazletine Pozzi

The Marine Mammal Center hosted the Grand Opening of their exciting new exhibit featuring work by Oregon artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi.  Along with her team of community volunteers, she collected approximately 7,000 pounds of trash from 20 miles of beaches along the southern Oregon coast last year and fashioned it into sculptures, all related to the sea: fish, turtles, jellyfish, coral and more.

Folks at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California know better than anyone about the catastrophic effects of marine debris on sea life. Every year, they are faced with attempting rescues on animals who are entangled in nets or have ingested plastic waste, often with lethal effects.  And it gets worse. When plastic degrades and breaks down into powder-sized bits, even plankton will ingest it, causing plastic to be almost omnipresent in the marine food chain.

In every square mile of ocean, there are 46,000 bits of plastic.  Bits and pieces of plastic caps, bottles, netting, flip flops, bottles and other trash — mostly plastic — were organized by color and then assembled into large sculptures.  The show can be viewed any day through Oct. 15. It is free to the public.

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Says Pozzi, “We welcome people to come and play,” she said. “It’s a terribly depressing topic and if you just dwell on the negative people walk away. But if people take their picture in front of it then they remember it. We have to engage people in new ways.”

This is the first time the art has been in California. When it was displayed in Oregon last year, Jeff Boehm, executive director at the Marine Mammal Center, saw it and wanted to bring it to Marin.

“We think this exhibit will engage our visitors with the pretty ugly truth about ocean trash and help them make the connection between their health, the health of our oceans and how their actions have an impact on both,” Boehm said. “On average, 8 to 10 percent our patient admissions are due to human interactions including those related to entanglements in trash.”