Ocean Watch: Sea Mammals Update
2 016 was a mixed year for whales and dolphins and by extension, humans. Marine Biologist Sylvia Earle states the importance of ocean health this way: “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. The ocean is the blue heart of the planet. There’s still time, but not a lot, to turn things around.”
Scientists have discovered a new, black-colored species of whale that’s one-third the size of a Baird’s beaked whale. Yet to be named, it’s rarely seen, feeding in deep canyons in the Bering Sea.
The oldest-known orca whale, Granny, at 105, swims Washington’s coastline. Wild orcas usually live 60 to 80 years; captives, 40 years at most. Iceberg, the only known adult white orca, age 22, was spotted in Russian coastal waters earlier this year.
In 2013, a Korean marine park retrained five dolphins to feed naturally and released them into the sea, where they rejoined their original pod. Recent sightings found them thriving, affording hope for the 2,900 dolphins in marine parks, aquariums and zoos worldwide.
Pink dolphins in Hong Kong’s bustling harbor remain endangered. In 2003, there were 158; by 2014, only 61. The Baiji River dolphin, only found in China, has been declared extinct. Vaquitas, small porpoises in the Gulf of California, declined from 97 in 2014 to 60 this year, most drowned in commercial fishing nets; it may be extinct by 2018.
This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Natural Awakenings.