Written by Diane Bilderback
Dave and I are long time Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network (OMMSN) volunteers, and when Jim Rice, OMMSN Coordinator, texted us that a large, live whale was near Face Rock, we needed to get there quickly. From the headland, we spotted the whale to the south. As we walked down the steps to the beach, we were joined by a Highway Patrolman, also who had been called. Soon, State Parks Rangers and a NOAA official were joining and erected a rope barrier to help control the large crowd. However, most people were wearing masks and trying to stay socially distant from others to see this whale.
The whale was in the surf that was shallow enough so that it could try to swim as the water came in but not deep enough to float its large, long-as-a-school-bus body. At times, the whale blew, but it was only a small blow of 3 or so feet. The dark blue-gray upper body was contrasted by the light underside. It would twist to try to push itself out to sea but was not successful. Once whales come on shore, their large body starts to get crushed under its own weight, and even if they could return to sea, the animal starts to suffer internal injuries making it unlikely to survive. Unfortunately, the tide had started to turn and as the tide went out, the whale became stranded on the sand. I got another text from Jim to bring old sheets and towels to place on the whale to keep it wet. The State Park Rangers, NOAA and Highway Patrol were all helping lug buckets of sea water to keep it moist. When Jim Rice came, he examined and photographed the whale, sending the photos to other whale experts to determine that it was a Sei Whale. The whale died around 9:30 PM in the evening.
Sei Whales are found from subtropical to subpolar regions but in deep water and offshore. They eat krill, squid, and small schooling fish by lunge diving or by skimming the water. They have baleen as do the Grey Whales that are often seen from shore. When feeding they open their mouth and swallow a large gulp of water and prey. They use their tongue to press the water through the baleen, leaving the prey to be swallowed. Along the US Pacific Coast, stranding records from 1950 to present include four Sei Whales, two in California, one in Washington and the first one in Oregon. All the data collected from our Bandon Sei Whale will further our knowledge about this species.
The next day, veterinarians specializing in whales came to help Jim Rice and others on the necropsy team. Detailed measurements are taken such as the length of the animal, the width of the fluke and many more. Then small samples of most of the organ systems (lungs, stomach, kidney, etc.) of the animal are taken so that pathologists can determine the cause of death.
This Sei Whale was a juvenile male, 38 feet in length and still not at the adult size of 45 feet. A whale this size weighs about 10 tons (20,000 pounds). The organ samples will be able to give more information to scientists about this whale’s health as well as add to the knowledge of this species.
Click on link to see photos of the Sei Whale on the beach:
To find more information about the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network and learn how you can help, please visit https://mmi.oregonstate.edu/ommsn .
We all know that we are watching the world change right before our eyes. The question is: will the changes be constructive or destructive? Well, here’s an example of an industry creating a new paradigm that might lead to wonderful innovations for not only sustainable but for regenerative commerce. I am always looking for reasons to be optimistic in the midst of chaos and catastrophe, and here is a great reason to be optimistic. Read on below!!
On Tuesday, August 25, 2020, Dr. Ann Schmierer of Wild Rivers Land Trust presented the webinar you can view below. The topic of “regenerative agriculture” is an extremely important one as it addresses climate change, air pollution, and water pollution. But what does this have to do with Shoreline Education for Awareness? We are about oceans and marine life.
Here is the link. We know that whatever happens on land makes its way to the ocean. One example is the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that has been created by all of the agricultural chemicals farmers are using in the Midwest that drain off their land into the water and flow down the Mississippi River to the Gulf. And, of course, methane gases from cow manure increase the level of methane from nature, and add to global warming, ozone layer destruction, and negatively impact the health of our oceans and marine life just as harshly as the polluted water does. The practices of agriculture have enormous impact on our oceans.
It is encouraging to hear what Ann presented about the healthy changes that are right now happening across the nation in the agricultural industry. While you will see that her borderline acceptable internet connection created a few moments of voice distortion, the points are clear and the graphs are informative. Agriculture is moving in a healthy and sustainable direction – benefiting both the environment as well as the health of the living beings (human and other) who are eating these healthier and higher quality products. And farmers and ranchers are seeing greater profit margins as well. A win-win all around.
How great will it be when the marine aquaculturalists figure out how to farm the sea in an equally healthy and sustainable way?
Enjoy this presentation.
Maybe you’ve heard about the crisis in kelp worldwide. It has been disappearing at warp speed as climate change and urchin proliferation have destroyed nearly 90% of the world’s kelp forests. Take a look at this article and see what some are doing to offer a solution to this problem.
The following comes from Hakai Magazine in Vancouver, BC. It’s reassuring to learn just how rigorous the research is that points us in the right direction for next steps in protecting and preserving our oceans’ marine life.
Ask any environmental scientist about their biggest challenge and many of them will tell you—or at least, many of them have told me—that it’s not always getting the data, it’s processing it. Acousticians scrub through thousands of hours of hydrophone recordings for a few precious seconds of whale song. Oceanographers parse endless temperature and salinity logs from monitoring buoys to find trends. It’s astounding how often science’s rate-limiting step is just dealing with all the information.
The University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us initiative has just compiled a mind-blowing volume of data on fish stocks around the world. They measured species biomass since 1950 and looked specifically at how much of the fish that people like to eat is actually in the ocean. This scope of study is valuable, and this one draws a pretty clear picture: we’re decimating most of our favorite fish.
The group used computer-based statistical methods to assess over 1,000 populations of 483 fishes and invertebrates humans find delicious and found 82 percent of these populations had dwindled beyond what can support maximum levels of fishing. Some places were worse than others, but with such big data the overall trend is clear.
Next comes the question of policy. Catch limits and protected areas can help stocks recover. Implementing them, however, can be tricky. Sustainable aquaculture can alleviate fishing pressure, too. But whatever comes next, the first step in any solution is getting a clear picture of the problem. Now, there are some good numbers to lean on.
So this week, let’s give a shout-out to the researchers, students, and everyone everywhere crunching numbers and weeding through and making sense of the deluge of information out there. Without them, we’d be far more in the dark about the problems, and solutions, of our world.
Staff researcher and writer for Hakai Magazine
Article by Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press
“This could mean a lot of problems to many species.”
Here’s a great article calling all of us who live on or visit the Oregon Coast. With budget and staffing cuts due to Covid-19, we can step up and help protect and preserve the coastal places we love and use.
Cleaning up litter is nothing new since we have had a great group of volunteers doing cleanups regularly. But with the pandemic still going strong, it’s a good reminder to those of us out on the beaches regularly to bring a bag with us and pitch in to fill the shortage of staff.
If you want to know more about one of the keystone species in our rocky shores habitat, read the following article from Olympia Washington’s Works in Progress newsletter. To me it underscores the fact that there are so many things we can and must do to protect and to restore the environment we depend upon for our futures.