#MarineWildlife - The killer whale found beached on a Scottish island last weekend likely died after getting entangled in fishing gear for days, say experts.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the orca known as Lulu to researchers, who have been tracking her unique pod since the early 1990s, was discovered on the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides last Sunday 3 January.
Lulu's "evolutionary significant" group has been under threat for years due to the absence of calves among its number since scientists began monitoring them around the Scottish and north Irish coasts.
But according to The Press and Journal, Lulu's death was not down to natural causes – with a post-mortem report from experts at the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme claiming "convincing evidence that she had become chronically entangled" in fishing gear, with deep wounds consistent with a rope wrapping around her tail.
“There were no ropes or gear left on the carcass," said the scientists in a statement. "We’re assuming all this from the lesions we found on her body, so we don’t know if this was due to active fishing gear, abandoned or ‘ghost’ gear, or other marine debris."
The Press and Journal has much more on the story HERE.
#AnimalRescue - Northern Ireland coastguard teams raced to the aid of a dog trapped on a cliff ledge in Co Down earlier this week.
As the Belfast Telegraph reports, eight coastguard volunteers fought their way across boggy ground to reach the terrier that had slipped down the cliff from the Ballyhornan Coastal Path.
But once on the scene, a winch was quickly set up to rescue the petrified pooch and return him to his owners.
A rescue of a different kind was celebrated in Co Wexford in recent days after a loggerhead turtle washed up in Kilmore Quay over the Christmas period.
According to the Wexford People, the turtle – of a species used to much warmer waters – was named Ninja by staff at the Seal Rescue Ireland sanctuary who nursed her back to health after she beached alive just before Christmas.
A second turtle found over the same period at Ballyhealy Beach sadly died.
"Ninja was our first turtle in the centre and we were extremely happy with her progress," said manager Meadow Greenwood. "Our fingers are still crossed for a full recovery and final ending of release."
Ninja has since been transferred to the longer-term marine wildlife care facilities at Galway Atlantaquaria.
As STV News reports, the orca known as Lulu to marine researchers was found beached on the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides on Scotland's west coast on Sunday 3 January.
Like John Doe, who is believed to have survived an altercation with a shark a year ago, Lulu was one of a familiar family of orcas that's regularly seen off Scotland and even as far west as the Donegal coast.
But the "evolutionary significant" group's numbers have been dwindling in recent years due to the absence of calves since scientists started tracking them more than two decades ago.
"It is particularly sad to know that another one of these killer whales, unique to the British and Irish Isles, has died," said the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. "There may be as few as eight individuals remaining in this population."
STV News has more on the story HERE.
That's the conclusion of the first National Biodiversity Indicators report, which sought to measure changes affecting marine wildlife and inland species alike in terms of temperature, rainfall and other factors, as The Irish Times reports.
Dr Tomás Murray, an ecologist with the National Biodiversity Data Centre who co-ordinated the report with Deirdre Lynn of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, shared his alarm that only five per cent of Ireland's known species have been assessed for their conservation status.
The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.
#MarineWildlife - Marine wildlife welfare groups will received €27,000 out of more than €2.5 million awarded to 140 animal welfare organisations nationwide by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Seal Rescue Ireland, based at Courtown Harbour in Co Wexford, will receive €12,000, while €5,000 apiece will go to Galway & Claddagh Swan Rescue, the Irish Seal Sanctuary in Garristown, Co Dublin and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group in Kilrush, Co Clare.
Making the announcement at the Irish Blue Cross Clinic in Inchicore on Friday 18 December, Marine Minister Simon Coveney said that these organisations "make a tremendous contribution to the welfare of animals, in particular, by educating the public on best practice, by making effective interventions where appropriate and providing facilities for at-risk animals.
"The increase in workload for animal welfare bodies due to new animal welfare legislation, including the new dog microchipping legislation, and the continuing albeit decreasing reporting of incidences of animal neglect to the department’s animal welfare helpline, clearly demonstrates a need to assist animal welfare organisations in their important work.
"I am pleased therefore to be in a position to increase funding to animal welfare organisations for the fifth consecutive year."
The minister added that he and his department would continue to work closely with animal welfare groups. He reminded the public of the dedicated email address ([email protected]) and helpline (01 607 2379 or Call Save 0761 064408) in operation in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for members of the public to report incidents of animal cruelty. The helpline will be monitored regularly over the holiday period.
More than 60 scientists took part in the research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and announced at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Wednesday 16 December.
The study – based on global analyses including unique long-term data from the Marine Institute's catchment research facility at Newport, Co Mayo – found that lakes are warming an average of 0.34C, or 0.61F, each decade.
That's greater than the warming rate of either the oceans or the atmosphere, and it can have profound effects, the scientists say.
At the current rate, algal blooms – which can ultimately rob water of oxygen – are projected to increase 20 percent in lakes over the next century. Algal blooms that are toxic to fish and animals would increase by five percent.
These rates imply that emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, will increase four percent over the next decade.
"Lakes are important because society depends on surface water for the vast majority of human uses," said co-author Stephanie Hampton, director of Washington State University's Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach.
"Not just for drinking water, but manufacturing, for energy production, and for irrigation of our crops. Protein from freshwater fish is especially important in the developing world."
Temperature is one of the most fundamental and critical physical properties of water. It controls a host of other properties that include intricate living processes that have evolved within strict boundaries.
When the temperature swings quickly and widely from the norm, life forms in a lake can change dramatically and even disappear.
"These results suggest that large changes in our lakes are not only unavoidable, but are probably already happening," said lead author Catherine O'Reilly, associate professor of geology at Illinois State University.
Earlier research by O'Reilly has seen declining productivity in lakes with rising temperatures.
Funded in part by NASA and the National Science Foundation, the study is the largest of its kind and the first to use a combination of long-term hand measurements and temperature measurements made from satellites, offsetting the shortcomings of each method.
Study co-author Simon Hook, science division manager at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said satellite measurements provide a broad view of lake temperatures over the entire globe. But they only measure surface temperature, while hand measurements can detect changes in temperature throughout a lake. Also, satellite measurements go back only 30 years while some lake measurements can go back more than a century.
Lough Feeagh in Co Mayo was one of 235 lakes in the study that have been monitored for at least 25 years. While that's a fraction of the world's lakes, they contain more than half the world's freshwater supply.
The Marine Institute measures the surface water temperature of Lough Feeagh as part of the long term ecological monitoring of the Burrishoole catchment. The Burrishoole research station is an internationally important index site for diadromous fish monitoring, and water temperature is a crucial variable controlling growth, migration and survival of salmon, trout and eel in the catchment.
"The inclusion of data from Lough Feeagh in this study highlights the value of collecting local environmental long term data to inform global analyses," said Dr Elvira de Eyto, a biologist at the Marine Institute facility in Burrishoole and one of the studies co-authors.
Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan added: "The sharing of such data with global scientific networks makes an important contribution to worldwide climate change analyses, and our understanding of how the warming climate will affect our valuable aquatic resources."
The surface water of Lough Feeagh has warmed at a rate of 0.35C per decade between 1985-2009, although the rate of warming was lower than some other northern hemisphere lakes.
"We want to be careful that we don't dismiss some of these lower rates of change," said Hampton. "In warmer lakes, those temperature changes can be really important. They can be just as important as a higher rate of change in a cooler lake."
The researchers said various climate factors are associated with the warming trend. In northern climates lakes are losing their ice cover earlier, and many areas of the world have less cloud cover, exposing their waters more to the sun's warming rays.
Many lake temperatures are rising faster than the average air temperatures. Some of the greatest warming is seen at northern latitudes, where rates can average 0.72C, or 1.3F, per decade.
Warm-water, tropical lakes may be seeing less dramatic temperature increases, but increased warming of these lakes can still have large negative impacts on fish. That can be particularly important in the African Great Lakes, home to one-fourth of the planet's freshwater supply and an important source of fish for food.
In general, the researchers write: "The pervasive and rapid warming observed here signals the urgent need to incorporate climate impacts into vulnerability assessments and adaptation efforts for lakes."
Rathlin, Waterfoot, Outer Belfast Lough and Carlingford Lough are the proposed locations, variously home to marine species from the black guillemot to the white sea slug, as well as vulnerable geomorphological features like sea arches.
"We all have a stake in preserving and protecting our marine environment for future generations so I urge people to let us know their views on these proposed sites and species," said NI Environment Minister Mark Durkan, who launched the consultation today (Monday 14 December).
Members of the public in Northern Ireland have until 11 March 2016 to express their views, with full details on the consultation available online.
The Coleraine Times has much more on the story HERE.
#MarineWildlife - 'Poison Ivy' the seal pup is now in good hands after she was found on the streets of Galway by council workers earlier this month.
As the Galway Independent reports, the young seal was discovered on the footpath in Salthill by litter collectors and was cared for locally by vets, members of the public and volunteers with Galway & Claddagh Swan Rescue.
She has since been transferred to the Seal Rescue Ireland sanctuary in Wexford, where she is said to be thriving after treatment for dehydration and malnourishment, an eye infection and a number of infected wounds.
It's thought that since she still had half of her lanugo fur coat, she was less than three weeks' old when found – "so there is a good chance that little Poison Ivy was separated from her mom too early," said the sanctuary's manager Meadow Greenwood.
As for the name? It's part of a comic book theme at the sanctuary, which earlier in the year played host to the like of Blackbird, a seal rescued in Co Louth, and Mystique from Co Mayo, according to the Gorey Guardian.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, the PSNI is investigating the incident on the banks of the Sixmilewater River at Dunadry as the placement of the trap "suggests a deliberate attempt to target the otter" – a protected species at EU level.
And as a member of the Antrim and District Angling Association alleges, whether or not the trap itself is legal is irrelevant as its placement was not.
"There is a residential development backing onto that area ... A cat or a dog or a young child could have been caught in that trap."
The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.
The demarche expresses “serious concern” at Japan's decision to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean under what it calls its “New Scientific Research Whale Programme in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A)”.
The demarche recalls the decision of the International Court of Justice in 2014 which held that Japan’s previous Southern Ocean whaling programme was not “for purposes of scientific research” under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1946 and was therefore unlawful.
The countries participating in the demarche note that the last Annual Meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission held in June 2015 was unable to confirm that Japan had done enough to justify commencement of lethal sampling in the 2015/16 season.
In expressing concern to Japan, Ireland and the other participating countries urge the government of Japan as a member of the International Whaling Commission to respect the commission’s procedures, stress that there is no scientific basis to include lethal methods in NEWREP-A, and strongly request the government of Japan not to engage in this whaling programme.
Other member states of the EU and New Zealand also participated in the joint demarche.
According to BBC News, Japan says it has taken the court's decision into consideration – and maintains that it will only resume whaling in the Southern Ocean for "scientific" purposes.
But Australia, which won its case against Japan at the International Court of Justice in 2014, has restated its opposition to the move, with the country's environment minister Greg Hunt saying: "We do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called 'scientific research'."
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Irish marine research was cited by an expert panel at the International Whaling Committee that struck down Japan's 'scientific whaling' plan for lacking detail to determine how many minke whales would be hunted and for what exact purpose.
BBC News has more on the story HERE.