NOAA declares deaths of 70 gray whales on US west coast ‘unusual mortality event’

first_imgJustin Sullivan/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — The stranding of 70 gray whales along the United States’ west coast is considered to be an “unusual mortality event” by the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.Thirty-seven gray whales have washed up in California, including more than a dozen in the San Francisco Bay Area, experts said during a NOAA conference call on Friday afternoon. The whale species have also been beached in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.Five gray whales have also beached in Canada, according to Michael Milstein, public affairs officer for NOAA Fisheries’ west coast regional office.There are currently an estimated 27,000 gray whales that migrate in the eastern northern Pacific region, incliuding 1,600 calves, according to the NOAA, which cited a 2016 survey. This population estimate is considered to be “abundant” and “on par” with the estimates from 1987 to 1988, when there were 26,900, said Dave Weller, research wildlife biologist for the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California.The gray whales had a poor feeding season during summer and fall 2018Researchers are trying to figure out whether the elevated die-offs are occurring due to environmental factors, disease or human activities, such as ship strikes, said Deborah Fauquier, veterinary medical officer for NOAA Fisheries. Once they narrow it down, scientists will then determine a response plan.Lately, the whale population has been “subpar and less energetic,” perhaps due to a poor feeding season in the arctic in the summer and fall of 2018, Weller said.Sue Moore, a biological oceanographer with NOAA Fisheries, said scientists have seen warming conditions in the arctic.“The arctic is changing very, very quickly,” Moore said. “Whales are going to have to be able to adjust to that.”While gray whales are “good at eating a variety of things,” their main diet consists of anthropods located in the ocean’s sediment, Moore said. Scientists are currently researching whether the sea ice, which is currently melting away in the arctic, serves as fertilizer for the anthropod sediment beds.Without the anthropods, the gray whales will have to switch to krill or other sources of food, but they may not get the lipid-rich feed they need to survive, Moore said.After the whales feed in the arctic, they typically move south to Mexico before making their way back north to the United States’ west coast, according to the experts. During this time in the migration pattern, scientists would expect the whales to be “under peak nutritional stress,” but the emaciated and malnourished state of many of the beached gray whales have made them concerned, Weller said.The number of stranded whales could be just a fraction of the actual death tollMost whales, especially emaciated whales, tend to sink when they’re dead, said John Calambokidis, a research biologist for Cascadia Research Collective. The 70 stranded whales so far likely represent just 10% of the actual death toll, Calambokidis said.In addition, cases of beached whales in remote areas like Alaska are much harder to find and quantify, Calambokidis said.Scientists expect more whales to wash up dead, too. It’s still early in the season for places like Washington, Canada and Alaska, so the numbers are just partial totals so far and the “event is still very much ongoing,” Calambokidis said.The population is capable of reboundingThe number of beach whales announced on Friday is the most since the last unusual mortality event (UME) was declared during the 1999 to 2000 season, experts said.During that season, a large El Nino event could have contributed to the warming waters and less food for the whales, Moore said. However, those whales were not emaciated and were in good body condition overall, she added.At the time, researchers were unable to determine if the deaths were caused by a mix of contributors or if it was one dominant factor, Moore said.But based on the findings from the last UME, researchers are confident that the population can recover as long as the parameters are the same, such as the environment and the availability of food, Keller said.Researchers are closely monitoring calf production and the population level, Keller said.How the public can helpExperts encourage the public to report any sick, stranded or dead whales they may come across.However, Fauquier urged people not to approach the whales, because they can harm both themselves and the animal.In addition, it is illegal to approach them, Fauquier said.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

Irish leaders restrict movements after minister tests positive for coronavirus

first_imgMcConalogue twice tested negative last week before and after he attended a two-day meeting of the EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels. But he tested positive after taking a post-Cabinet test Tuesday. It’s the first positive coronavirus test recorded by a member of the Irish government. The country’s 160-member lower house of parliament has been meeting since July in the 3,000-seat Dublin Convention Centre to ensure sufficient physical distancing. Besides McConalogue, the only other member to have been confirmed as contracting COVID-19 is Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the main opposition Sinn Féin party, who was stricken during the early weeks of the pandemic but recovered in April.Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting approved an accelerated return to a national lockdown, starting on Christmas Eve when all hospitality and personal services firms, such as restaurants and hairdressers, must shut by 3 p.m. It will be Ireland’s third national lockdown and comes just three weeks after the previous restrictions were eased.Family gatherings that had been approved to run until the first week of January now must end on the day after Christmas, called St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland.Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who is among those being tested Wednesday, says restaurants and other social venues may not be allowed to reopen until March, depending on how quickly Ireland is able to source and deliver coronavirus vaccines. DUBLIN — Ireland’s government has been hit by its first confirmed COVID-19 case shortly after the Cabinet met to approve a new nationwide lockdown.Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue confirmed Wednesday that he has tested positive for the virus and is self-isolating at home. The news means that the rest of Ireland’s 15-member Cabinet and other officials are being tested and are minimizing their own contacts pending their results. They all are presumed to have come into close contact with McConalogue during Tuesday’s three-hour Cabinet meeting at which the fresh lockdown was approved. It was held in Dublin Castle rather than in the much closer quarters of the Cabinet table in Prime Minister Micheál Martin’s office, in an attempt to reduce infection risk.last_img read more

Cavs Clinch Top Seed in East With Dominant 109-94 Victory Over Hawks

first_imgHe would score the Cavs’ first eight points, including two three-pointers, to make it a four-point game.The Hawks would stay in control for the rest of the quarter, leading 26-22 after one. Kent Bazemore led his team in scoring with 10 points in the quarter, while Kyrie Irving scored 12 for the Cavs.It was a back and forth second quarter, as Bazemore kept up his great evening, hitting 7-of-8 field goal attempts to start the game. Kevin Love joined in on the action after a scoreless first quarter, knocking down back-to-back three pointers to help the Cavs lead 45-43 with 3:04 to play in the half.LeBron followed that up with a trademark chase down block, which prompted the Cavs to extend the lead to as many as eight points.The Cavs would head into halftime leading 51-45.The Hawks were led by Bazemore’s 21 points, while LeBron scored 15 and Irving put up 14 for the Cavs in the half.The Cavs came out firing in the third quarter, outscoring Atlanta 39-30 to increase their lead to 90-75 heading into the fourth.LeBron scored 19 points in the third quarter alone, two of which came courtesy of this ridiculous jam.Cleveland was one quarter away from clinching the #1 seed in the East and they kept up the great second half to seal the deal and win 109-94.LeBron finished the night with 34 points and six assists.Love posted a double-double with 10 points and 14 boards.Irving tied his season-high in scoring with 35 points.Bazemore, who scored 21 in the first half, was held to just two points after halftime.Al Horford scored 20 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and Jeff Teague contributed 21 points to go with nine assists.The Cavs improve to 57-24 and now will have the luxury of resting some key players, including LeBron in the final regular season game on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons. Matt Medley The Cleveland Cavaliers returned to action on Monday night, hosting the Atlanta Hawks at Quicken Loans Arena.It was an even first half, but the Cavs came out of the gate after halftime with energy and a purpose, to clinch home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs, with a dominant 109-94 win. Atlanta jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, but LeBron James got the Wine and Gold going. Matt Medley is co-editor at NEO Sports Insiders, covers the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians and high school sports in Northeast Ohio.Follow @MedleyHoops on Twitter for live updates from games. Related TopicsAtlanta HawksCleveland CavaliersLebron Jameslast_img read more