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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Depredation - hot topic, cool videos

Depredation, or the removal of fish from fishing gear by various marine creatures, is a growing problem in a world where there are ever-fewer fish. Whales and other large marine animals often have to expend a fair bit of energy to find food, so being the clever beings they are, they often learn to look for it in places where it is most concentrated and easy to find: in fishing gear. Of course, while this can benefit the whale in the short run, it can also lead to injury and entanglement.

Anyway, now that you've heard the spiel, here are some videos that various people have taken of the phenomenon. The first video was taken by Conservation International near Papau, and features a whale shark taking batfish from a net with the aid of the same filter feeding technique it would normally use to catch fish

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Entangled humpback finds its final resting place, with a little help

You may recall hearing about a young Humpback that washed ashore near White Rock, BC, on June 12th. This unfortunate whale was entangled in some sort of fishing line (though not of a type immediately recognizable to any experts) which resulted in starvation and eventually death. The whale attracted a good deal of media attention at the time, as well as a great deal of interest from people in the area. If you have not already read the excellent piece by the Marine Detective on the whale's sad yet beautiful story, I highly recommend it.

However, the whale's story didn't end there. It was loaded onto a barge and towed up through Georgia and Johnstone Straits to Bauza Cove, just around the corner from Beaver Cove on northern Vancouver Island. The reason for this location is the Whale Interpretive Centre in nearby Telegraph Cove where the whale's skeleton will eventually be put on display and used for public education.

Before that could happen though, several thousand pounds of flesh and entrails had to be removed.

Last week I had the opportunity, along with many others, to take part in the first step of this process which involved "flensing" or removing the outer layer of blubber from the whale. As you can see from the pictures below, this was no mean feat since the entire exterior of the thirty-foot long whale was covered in a three-inch layer of the stuff.