Category Archives: Mammals

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Whale puke and beach cleanup

Flyer for September 15, 2012 beach cleanups on Sinclair Inlet (Port Orchard and Bremerton, WA). Click to see a larger version.

First of all, this Saturday (9/15/2012) is an opportunity for you and your family or friends to  join others all over the world as we put a dent in the garbage that litters our shorelines and impacts sea life when they eat it or get caught in or smothered by it. Even people may be in harms way from large, sharp or toxic debris.

Often you’ll find sea life living or in marine garbage. They may be happy, but their “home” also serves as an unnatural hazard to other sea life and ultimately may not suit their own needs. I once found a board floating on the beach. On the underside was a cluster of midshipman eggs. Daddy midshipman attracted a lady to lay eggs for him to guard… a tough job when his nest floats away. Now that the wood is gone, he’s more likely to find a nice stable boulder.

If you’re in the Bremerton/Port Orchard neighborhood or want to come over for a visit, check out this flyer image above for details on Sinclair Inlet cleanups.

You can also visit the Ocean Conservancy’s “Sign Up to Clean Up” website, enter your city/town, and find cleanups near you. You can also propose your own cleanup site.

Unfortunately, trash from enormous to miniscule is very abundant on beaches an in the water worldwide (explore NOAA’s Marine Debris Program). However, there are other gems that can be found on the beach.

Chunks of ambergris. Photo: Peter Kaminski

A young boy in the UK recently found a $60,000′ish chunk of “whale sick”… to use the British terminology. If you read and have a clear memory of chapter’s 91 and 92 of Melville’s Moby Dick,… well anyway, it tells of the procurement of a some ambergris from a sperm whale obtained by “unrighteous cunning” and says of ambergris  “Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale! Yet so it is.”

Ambergris was historically used in the production of perfumes and still is in limited, but extremely expensive quantities. It was also used to flavor food. Ambergris eggs and muktuk? (A poor play on green eggs and ham… since ambergris eggs apparently don’t go well with pig).

The ambergris is produced in the intestines of sperm whales and typically passed out as feces. If it’s too large, then it may be puked up. It is described as starting with an distinct  aroma of feces (yum), but over months and years of floating on the ocean becomes uniquely sweet, marine and earthy… and edible.

Dig around for more information on this unique relationship between humans and a marine resources. Fascinating stuff! Ambergris is mostly found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Western Pacific, but as you’re cleaning the beach this weekend, keep an eye and nostril out for a waxy, gray rock that has an unusual aroma. You may find your own windfall of whale discharge.

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets, FaceBook and video posts, send email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.

 

“Ocean Frontiers”: Working together can really work!

Ocean Frontiers doesn’t have a dragonfly inspired alien or a mutant invasive snakehead fish (I love that stuff!), but it is an opportunity to see some inspiring examples of how stakeholders with very different interests can address issues in ocean conservation… to mutual benefit.

Ocean Frontiers logo courtesy of ocean-frontiers.org.

After a brief introduction, the case studies begin with an amazing effort in Boston Harbor to understand why ships and whales are having unfortunate encounters. Really cool whale research follows that then informs decision making by shipping and energy companies. The results and the process are a model for better, more informed management of our marine environments.

Protection efforts in the Florida keys and off the Oregon Coast follow, but in the middle is an example that really came home to me. I grew up on a small farm along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River Delta faces a number of ecological challenges, which in turn impact important fishery opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico. Who comes to the rescue? Iowa farmers.

I was really struck by the image of a bunch of Iowa farmers (could have easily been my childhood neighbors and friends) on a fishing charter in the Delta, 1000+ miles from their crops and cows. They were reeling in something other than bass, crappie and catfish while learning about the connections between their agricultural choices and the distant fisheries in the Gulf.

There are so many perspectives that come into play as we engage in efforts to rehabilitate and protect the Puget Sound (and all of the Salish Sea), while maintaining an economy, culture and lifestyle that is dependent on estuary’s watershed and resources. Ocean Frontiers provides examples of ocean management that can embolden us to imagine how our perspectives can work together to mutually beneficial ends.

If you missed the Bainbridge Island screening in early February and the Seattle screening last week, opportunities to catch the film (and ensuing discussions) remain. The Ocean Frontiers’ website’s find a screening page indicates a showing in Bellingham April 25 (umm, that would be shortly after I post this). Also looks like it will be screened in Olympia June 9th. Click on the pin drop for more details on that showing.

Tomorrow evening (April 26 @ 6:30PM) a Port Orchard screening is sponsored by Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido and held at the Dragonfly Cinema in downtown Port Orchard at 822 Bay Street. A discussion will follow, lead by Washington Sea Grant’s Marine Habitat Specialist, Jim Brennan. Cost is only a suggested donation. I hope you can take advantage and join in an atmosphere of collaboration that can lead us into a future of healthy oceans and prosperous societies.

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets, FaceBook and video posts, send email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.

Habitat specificity… or… home, home on the whale

I’ve really been enjoying a blog by Jackie Hildering, “The Marine Detective” from Port McNeill, BC. In her most recent post to themarinedetective.com, she share a story of a relationships between species that literally build upon each other.

In Humpback Whale Gooseneck Barnacles?! She shares the wonder of diversity and discovery that never ceases to surprise. In her research on humpback whales she and her colleagues noticed a species specific whale barnacle on a particular humpback. As time went on, the barnacle changed like a gnarly wart growing hair. Finally, they got a close look at the “hair” to find it was a barnacle specific barnacle – the humpback whale barnacle barnacle. Share the marine detective’s wonder and enjoy her amazing photos.

Humpback whale in Colvos Passage near the Southworth ferry. Jeff Adams

Humpback whales sometimes find their way into Salish Sea waters (as you may note in my Loch Ness blurr style humpback pic). So bring the binoculars next time you hear of one (join the Orca Network list for near daily whale sightings info). Wonder not only at the magnificence of the whale, but see if you can spot a humpback whale barnacle, or even a barnacle with a medusa doo. Cheers! JEff

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets and videos, email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.

From fiction to real life: Tropic whale in South Puget Sound?

Hello All! I started this blog last week then immediately left for a week-long meeting in Los Angeles. Apologies for my neglect and thanks much to those of you who commented and responded to my initial blog.

I’ve got a few things to share from LA but will wait until I get home and download the pictures.

In the meantime, if you haven’t heard through other avenues, what appears to be a juvenile (still nearly as long as my house) Bryde’s whale has washed up in South Puget Sound. It likely solves some mystery whale reports from Liberty Bay residents to the Orca Network earlier this month.

Bryde’s whales typically live in the tropics. This appears to be the first record of the whale in the Puget Sound. If you’ve ever read Jim Lynch’s The Highest Tide, you might find it ironic that this whale showed up near where young Miles began to witness strandings of several unusual and awesome creatures outside of their usual habitat. … If you haven’t read The Highest Tide, it’s a quick read loaded with marine biology, embedded in a great story.

For more information and several pictures of this particular whale, check out the Cascadia Research website. Enjoy the mysteries and wonders the sea is willing to share! JEff

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Ocean and Fishery Sciences and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea-life blog, email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.