As seismic surveys and strandings continue in the UK two things became very clear:
1. Nobody is interested to independently investigate seismic surveys-strandings connection
2. While the UK and other countries pump up the number of permits they give out for seimsic exploration the stranding field remains utterly incapable of dealing with increasing number of stranded whales and dolphins.
Some seismic surveys started in the beginning of August while others started at the end of August in the North Sea. And just by the clock strandings followed (previous blog posts link and link). Rescues and officials in charge went out of their way to spin these strandings as “natural events”. We’ve heard all kind of explanations, quakes and malnourishment and whatnot, but everybody is very careful not to imply that the seismic surveys could have been responsible. Even though it appears that SCOTLAND’s Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead has requested some sort of investigation (link), the constant insistence that seismic surveys are not to blame by rescues and officials involved is very troubling to say the least.
So since the beginning of September we had a mass stranding of pilot whales and two sei whales that were denied any rescue. The majority of pilot whales were also lost. BDMLR and the officials went out of their way to argue that these are “sad but natural events” that sei whales were “malnourished” and pilot whales were “lost”. But the way the latest sei whale stranding was handled is completely appalling. Sei whales are critically endangered, and one would think that a bit more effort would have been put into saving one. But no, BDMLR merrily declares the whale “malnourished” and proceeds to kill it within hours. What BDMLR does not tell you is that not only malnourished baleen whales are often observed in a wild, they do not necessarily strand and also that they have the ability to recover (link just ONE example among many).
What is even more troubling is who decides the fate of stranded endangered marine life. When you have a scientist who wants to study a sei whale, he or she will jump through so many hoops that he or she might want to reconsider. There are numerous permit applications, IACUC commissions and what not. But once this very same whale strands the whole process goes down the drain as rescues like BDMLR send some random people that cannot even properly identify the species (sei whale was initially reported as minke link). These people are accompanied by volunteers whos only qualification is 5 or 6 hours long class and this “team” is finalized by adding a veterinarian that has never seen a sei whale in his life because he specializes on cats and dogs (or large hoofstock). And these are the people who decide the fate of an endangered sei whale. Now BDMLR tries to spin the situation that the whale was malnourished and stranded because of that.
Seismic surveys have been ongoing all other the place, numerous strandings happened within a month and somehow the whales and dolphins stranded because they were not “healthy”, “malnourished” or “lost”. Sure. Meanwhile malnourished baleen whales have been seen all other world without any strandings. Numerous cases also show that they can recover and improve their condition. Apparently it does not mean anything for BDMLR and officials in charge. Because as long as you spin the stranding as “natural” event, you close the case and lay it to rest. No investigation needed.
The whale was given a death sentence because he did not have a meal prior to the stranding. See the initial necropsy here (link). Once again we would like to emphasize that malnourished whales are routinely seen in the wild. BDMLR initial assessment of a whale as “extremely thin and malnourished” has changed to “the moderate to poor nutritional condition”. Because of the outcry they now are trying to spin the case and argue that the whale had “potential status as being maternally dependent”. They will stop at nothing to justify the murder and cover their %^$#. Unbelievable.
Two more strandings in the vicinity of seismic surveys: a fin whale in Suffolk, UK on Sunday (link) and a beaked whale (link) also on Sunday in Farm beach south of Bridlington, UK. Currently there are several seismic surveys going that are close to the stranding sites (Polarcus Adira, Vantage and Geco Triton ) on plus a new one by M/V Oceanic Challenger.
Now, since the beginning of August we had the following strandings in the North and Celtic Seas: 3 fin whales, 2 beaked whales, 26 pilot whales, and 2 sei endangered whales. At the same time 10(!) seismic surveys have been going on plus hydrography survey. The surveys involved Polarcus Adira, Celtic Voyager, Geo Caspian, Tasman, Vantage, Ramform Viking, Symphony, Western Pride, Geco Triton, and Bibi Tethra.
Who is going to investigate all this? Are there any independent agencies allowed to do the necropsy or at least oversee it apart from the ZSL? Who is going to question oil companies?
The public perhaps does not realize that the inability of officials and NGOs in charge to investigate what the heck is going on in the UK (either due to incompetence or even something more sinister) affects marine mammals world away. For example, currently there are plans to do insanely powerful seismic survey offshore in California (link). The company representative just uttered the following phrase:
“While similar high energy seismic surveys have been done on the Pacific Coast — most recently off Washington — PG&E said monitors there did not observe harm to whales or other marine mammals.”
Given how events unfold in the UK where seismic surveys have clearly something to do with strandings, yet rescues and officials in charge lamely insist that whales were lost, malnourished and dependent calves, we will never get the evidence linking seismic surveys to wiping out marine life. That is why it is important to pay attention to what is going on in the UK and pressure officials and NGOs to investigate. It would also not hurt for the public to ask NGOs what is the exact nature of their relationships with Big Oil. Many people will be unpleasantly surprised.