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We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
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Port River dolphins

New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales hunted every year

When you hear the words ‘dolphin hunts’ it’s likely that you think of Japan or...

Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

Iceland’s commercial hunt of minke whales has ended for this year. The common minke whale is the...

Icelandic whalers breach international law and kill iconic, protected whale by mistake

Icelandic whalers out hunting fin whales for the first time in three years appear to...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...

End the whale hunts! Icelandic fin whaler isolated as public mood shifts

Here’s a sight I hoped never again to witness. A boat being scrubbed and repainted...

Australian Government to block Japanese whaling proposal

Japanese Government officials have reportedly confirmed that they will propose the resumption of commercial whaling...

Pregnant whales once again a target for Japanese whalers

Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during the 2017/18 austral summer have revealed that...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...

SOS alert for whales off Norway!

I have to admit to bitter disappointment when I arrived in Tromsø, northern Norway, a...

Norway's whaling season begins

April 1st saw the start of the whaling season in Norway. Despite a widely-accepted international moratorium...

Norway increases whaling quota despite declining demand

Norway's government has announced an increase in the number of minke whales that can be...

Shocking news on the UK's only resident pod of orcas

In the first few days of 2016 came the depressing news that a female orca had been found washed ashore dead on the Hebridean island of Tiree off the west coast of Scotland. She was identified as Lulu, a member of the dwindling West Coast Community orca pod.

Her death must have been excruciating as she was entangled in fishing rope which prevented her from swimming, ultimately causing her to suffocate.

The West Coast Community now numbers just eight individuals – four males and four females – with no calves having been observed in the pod in over 20 years.

Whilst the UK gets seasonal orca visitors from Iceland and Norway to its northern shores, the West Coast Community are considered the UK’s only resident pod. As their name suggests, they are most often seen off the west coast of Scotland but are also known to roam a much bigger area to the west of the British Isles, from the southern Irish Sea and west along the entire length of Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard.

Scientists currently identify two forms or ‘ecotypes’ of orcas in the North Atlantic: Type 1 are mainly fish eaters while Type 2  – which includes the West Coast Community – are specialist feeders which prey exclusively on other marine mammals such as porpoises, dolphins, whales and seals.

This resident population also seems to have different physical characteristics from orcas elsewhere in the North Atlantic, including larger overall size and different dentition (makeup of their teeth). This indicates separate ancestry and there is evidence that the group’s closest relatives are found thousands of kilometres away in the Antarctic.

Threats to wild orca populations include live captures, habitat destruction, prey depletion, vessel disturbance and both noise and chemical pollution.

Researchers have known for some time that western European waters are a global hotspot for PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) pollution. These toxic chemicals, banned in Europe in the 1980s, are extremely persistent (they were designed not to break down by heat or chemical attack) and continue to leak in to the oceans with a devastating effect on marine wildlife. High levels of PCBs are important chemical markers and are known to harm breeding success and suppress the immune system of whales and dolphins.

The levels of PCBs in some species of Europe’s whales and dolphins are as high in females as they are in males. This is particularly alarming as females are usually able to offload toxins to their calves through their milk which is high in fat.

The ocean is downstream from everything and much more still needs to be done to ensure that PCBs currently in landfill sites are locked-in and secured so they can’t leak out into streams, rivers and estuaries.

Lulu’s body gave scientists a valuable opportunity to assess what role pollutants are playing in the demise of her pod. Research and conservation organisations alike have been patiently waiting (and dreading!) the results of her post mortem. Today’s announcement makes for devastating reading and the chances of survival for the remaining members of the pod are slim. Extinction is now a very real threat for this particular iconic community of orcas.

The levels of PCB contamination in Lulu were incredibly high, surprisingly so. They were 20 times higher than the safe level that we would expect for cetaceans to be able to manage. That puts her as one of the most contaminated animals on the planet in terms of PCB burden, and does raise serious questions for the long-term survivability of this group (of UK killer whales).”

Dr Andrew Brownlow, head of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme.

Rob Lott, WDC’s Policy Manager says: “This report is a wake up call and we must ask ourselves how much we value our oceans and the majestic creatures that call it home. We have a duty to future generations to now fully implement meaningful conservation measures to make sure the tragic story of Lulu and her family is a turning point in our attitude and understanding towards the marine environment and not seen as an inevitable historical footnote.”

The UK has a well-established strandings network–any stranding should be reported HERE

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