© Susan Bird, Fin Whale Calf Taken in Azores


Iceland has already killed the lowest number of whales among the whaling countries, which include Japan and Norway. Since resuming whaling in 2003 after a 14-year pause, the island nation has killed 1,505 whales. Recent announcements by Iceland's two whaling companies suggest that the annual hunt is ending
Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson, managing director of the minke whaling company IP-Utgerd, said on April 24, 2020, “I’m never going to hunt whales again, I’m stopping for good.” On the same day, Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur, told the Icelandic newspaper Morgunbladid that his ships would not be setting out to sea this summer.
One reason, Loftsson said, was the social distancing restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which would make crewing vessels and processing whales impractical. But Hvalur’s ships also stayed in port in 2019, and Loftsson acknowledged that there were other issues.
Iceland has elected not to keep this dying industry going any longer. This decision is in keeping with the nation’s PM, Katrin Jakobsdottir, and her mostly pro-environment position. In Japan, the consumption of whale meat has dropped from 203,000 tons in 1965 to less than 4,000 today.
Today, Iceland's focus is on whale watching.


In a study published in the journal Endangered Species Research recently, scientists analyzed underwater recordings from the Arabian Sea, extending from the coast of Oman as far south as Madagascar. The team of researchers came across an unfamiliar kind of whale song that had never before been documented, sparking an international effort to discover the new singer.
A year later, the team brought their findings to a meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. Here, other scientists said they had come across the whale song in recordings from the central Indian Ocean. The scientists joined forces to analyze their discovery. As they studied the unique song, it became clear that it was being sung by a previously unknown group of blue whales. As they amassed data, they discovered that the new population likely spends most of its time in the northwestern Indian Ocean. “It was quite remarkable to find a whale song in your data that was completely unique, never before reported, and recognize it as a blue whale,” said Salvatore Cerchio, director of the African Aquatic Conservation Fund’s Cetacean Program and study co-author.
The exciting discovery is promising for blue whales. They have been pushed to the brink of extinction and are currently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In the 1800s and into the 1900s, the commercial whaling industry nearly wiped them out. Thanks to environmental protections, blue whale populations have been increasing around the world in the past half-century, but the species still faces global threats.
These threats are due to climate change causing habitat loss from warming ocean temperatures.
In addition, they run the risk of being killed from ship strikes, net entanglement, and ingesting
plastic and marine debris which clog the opening of their stomach causing starvation.
In light of the discovery that there are even more blue whales out in the oceans than scientists previously thought, the study's authors say world leaders should redouble their efforts to protect the species by imposing stricter regulations on shipping and curbing carbon emissions.
NOAA photo of Manatee

A manatee was sighted recently with “Trump” written in block letters on its back. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that the manatee did not appear to be seriously injured as it was written in algae on the animal’s back. Nevertheless, the animal could not have enjoyed having its body tampered with, and these gentle creatures would not fight back.
“This abhorrent action goes beyond the bounds of what is considered cruel and inhumane,” said Elizabeth Flemming senior Florida representative at Defenders of Wildlife. “I’m disgusted that someone would harm a defenseless creature.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction “for the cruel and illegal mutilation” of a threatened manatee in the Homosassa River in Citrus County, on Florida’s Gulf Coast.


The gray whale mothers swimming with their babies spotted along Southern California’s coastline on a recent weekend was a hopeful sign. The multiple sightings on Saturday, January 9, 2021, occurred when whale watching charters counted five different mother and calf pairs off of Palos Verdes, Dana Point and Oceanside, California. These sightings offer a bit of good news for a species that has struggled in recent years. “Five sets of gray whale mother and calf pairs in three different areas, that is really good news,” said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, co-founder of the Gray Whale Census & Behavior Project. "Plus, the fact that it sounds like all the moms were in good condition.”
With current restrictions on gathering information because of the ongoing pandemic, it’s harder to judge how the gray whale species is doing his year. Hundreds of people who typically volunteer to scan the waters starting on January 1 and count the whales won’t be able to take their annual census.
So far this year, there have been no dead whales reported according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website. In 2019 there were 214 gray whale strandings in Canada, the United States and Mexico. There were 122 in the U.S. - 48 in Alaska, 34 in California, 34 in Washington and 6 in Oregon. Last year there were fewer numbers with 172 that washed up dead; 78 of those were in the United States.
Whale deaths usually occur during the northbound migration from the warm lagoons in Mexico and the whales return to their feeding grounds in Alaska. The eastern North Pacific gray whale population that migrates along the Pacific Coast was last estimated at about 27,000 animals.
NOAA photo of Gray Whale Mother/Calf

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