Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 2.3 (fwd)

mike williamson (
Tue, 10 Mar 1998 23:14:38 -0500 (EST)

                      J. Michael Williamson
Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
                   Associate Professor-Science
  Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
             voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
            fax:    617.734.8666, or 978.468.0073

          "Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call,
   Wanted to sail upon your waters, since I was three feet tall"
                        Jimmy Buffett

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 1998 16:25:34 -0500
To: Seabits <>
Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 2.3

New England Aquarium Monthly e-mail Newsletter
Volume 2, Issue 3, March, 1998
Copyright, New England Aquarium, 1998.
Hi, and we hope this issue finds you well. Your Seabits editor has been off
on vacation wandering the world, so this issue comes to you a bit late.
This month, we bring you stories of the work of two researchers who are Pew
Fellows in Conservation and the Environment. (The Pew Fellows Program in
Conservation and the Environment last year made its new home at the New
England Aquarium.) Also, we've provided an update on the dolphin stranding
that occurred on Cape Cod beginning on the weekend of January 30.

In this issue:
    Watery Words
       Saving a Down-Under Dolphin
       Helping Birds of a Different Feather
       Researchers Present Update on Dolphin Stranding
       Correction:  Now, the Truth About Sharks
    Out On The Net
    March Calendar
    Subscribe/Unsubscribe Information
    Contact Us

=-=-= WATERY WORDS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

      "All that we do
       Is touched by ocean, yet we remain
       On the shore of what we know."

                     -Richard Purdy Wilbur

=-=-= STORIES =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
This month's stories:
   1) Saving a Down-Under Dolphin
   2) Helping Birds of a Different Feather
   3) Researchers Present Update on Dolphin Stranding
   4) Correction: This time, the Truth About Sharks

------ DETERRENTS FOR DOWN UNDER DOLPHINS ---------------------------------
A handful of researchers stand atop a cliff overlooking Akaroa Harbour, a
large inlet on the eastern coast of New Zealand's South Island. The area is
known for high concentrations of Hector's dolphins, and the scientists are
here to study them. Led by New England Aquarium Director of Conservation
and scientist Greg Stone, they have come here each year since 1989 to help
save Hector's dolphins, one of the rarest marine dolphins in the world.

"Take a mark on that group," calls Dr. Jenny Brown of Canterbury
University, Christchurch, New Zealand, as a group of five small dolphins
swim out of the harbor. Nearby, New England Aquarium researcher Austen
Yoshinaga downloads the information from a theodolite into a laptop
computer. The theodolite is a surveying instrument that is used here to
track the movements of dolphins from the cliffs. Through observation and
experimentation, these scientists are trying to understand the behavior
patterns of this small, endemic New Zealand marine mammal.

Ultimately, the researchers seek ways to protect dolphins from accidental
drowning and death in commercial and recreational fishing nets. They also
are trying to understand the dolphin's natural history and ecology to
improve other resource management and wildlife protection decisions. The
work, done in cooperation with the New Zealand government, is crucial to
the survival of the 4,000-5,000 remaining Hector's dolphins.

This year, thanks to Greg's $150,000, three-year grant from the Pew
Fellowship for Conservation and the Environment, the research team is
testing the effectiveness of attaching sound-emitting devices called
acoustic pingers to gillnets, as a means of keeping Hector's dolphins away
from the nets. Gillnets, which fishermen set in place underwater with
weights for days at a time, create an impassable barrier for fish, netting
bountiful catches with minimal effort. Alarmingly, however, gillnets also
catch and drown Hector's dolphins. Worldwide, it is estimated that tens of
thousands of dolphins, porpoises and whales are killed annually in
commercial fishing gear.

Greg's pinger work is based partly on the success of another Aquarium
researcher, Director of Research and Chief Scientist Scott Kraus. Scott
performed similar experiments with the local New England harbor porpoise.
In a paper published in the July, 1997 issue of Nature, Kraus and his
colleagues showed that underwater acoustic pingers were highly effective in
keeping harbor porpoises out of fishing nets in New Hampshire waters.
Droplet:  Except for one species of New Zealand bat, Hector's dolphin is
the only endemic mammal in New Zealand.

------ HELPING BIRDS OF A DIFFERENT FEATHER -------------------------------
by Andrea Conley Early, special to Seabits

P. Dee Boersma seems to have found the better-dressed aquatic equivalent of
a canary in a coal mine: the penguin. Unfortunately, like its coal mine
counterpart, some penguins species seem to be reeling in response to
environmental trouble. Dee, a University of Washington professor, a
scientific fellow of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and one of the
world's leading penguin authorities, hopes she can stop this trend before
it's too late.

"Penguins are the most visible and among the most wide-ranging carnivores
in our oceans," says Dee, whose work with South Atlantic Magellanic
penguins has earned her a $150,000 grant from the Pew Fellows Program in
Conservation and the Environment. "Their sensitivity to environmental
disturbances, coupled with their land-based breeding system, makes them
valuable indicators of the general health of the marine environment," she

Judging by the declining numbers of Magellanic penguins over the last
decade, Boersma has some serious work to do. With her Pew Fellowship, she
will use the latest satellite tracking technology to identify the breeding
and feeding grounds of penguins in Argentina and the Falkland Islands. She
hopes the study will help save penguins from further encroachment by
development and other human activities.

A proactive approach is especially important in the Falklands, where
shoreline development and fishing pressure are increasing. "We need to know
more about where penguins are most closely tied to land, " says Dee.
"Ultimately this knowledge can be used to encourage policymakers to value
wildlife resources when making development decisions."

Penguins may be their own best ambassadors, however. "Almost everyone loves
them," she says. About 15 years ago, while working with the Wildlife
Conservation Society, she helped to defend penguins against a proposed
slaughter for gloves and oil by Japanese investors. "We started asking
questions about what would happen to these populations if there were a
harvest." Fortunately, Dee says, thanks primarily to public outcry in
Argentina, the culling never happened.

Today, these birds are more valuable to Argentina precisely because the
country decided not to allow the harvest. Indeed, at the village of Punta
Tombo, a half-million Magellanic penguins draw more than 50,000 visitors a
year, creating jobs and an internal impetus to protect the birds.

Over the next several years, Dee and her research team will use satellite
tags to track four colonies of Magellanic penguins in Argentina and the
Falklands in an effort to identify their feeding areas during the critical
times of egg incubation and chick rearing.

Ultimately, it may well be thanks to Boersma and other scientists like her
that this charismatic seabird averts its fate as the marine environment's
coal-mine canary.

Droplet: Like almost all species of penguins, Magellanic penguins probably
never see snow. They breed and live on shorelines and islands at the
southern tip of South America, in a variety of habitats including open
beach, sandhills, grassy slopes and woodland.

------ RESEARCHERS PROVIDE DOLPHIN UPDATE ---------------------------------
The final numbers and the results of blood tests are in on the dolphins
that died in last month's major stranding event on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
A total of 97 dolphins beached themselves and died over a four-week period
from January 29 to February 23. Dolphins were found scattered over 25 miles
of shoreline between Dennis and Wellfleet, Cape Cod. 81 were white-sided
dolphins and 16 were common dolphins. A handful of animals were herded back
to sea, but it is unknown--and unlikely--that any of these animals survived.

Necropsies (animal autopsies) were performed on most of the stranded
dolphins. Upon first glance, the animals showed no outward signs of disease
or malnutrition. However, the blood samples that were taken from the
dolphins revealed significantly elevated levels of hormones and enzymes
that indicated severe stress. This, in turn, led to physiological changes
like shock, a condition in which vital organs do not receive the necessary
blood for normal function. Whether this stress was a cause or a result of
the stranding is unknown. The blood tests showed no obvious sign of
infection or disease. Tissue samples will be analyzed and results will help
determine if disease was present. The tissues are being sent to various
pathology laboratories, and results are not expected for several months.

While the exact cause of this stranding is unknown, and may never be known,
biologists believe that the new moon, coupled with the unusually high tide
and the storm off the coast, all contributed to the event. Another major
contributing factor is the unusual aspect of common dolphins stranding with
white-sided dolphins. The mainly male, aggressive and larger common
dolphins may have disrupted and scattered the herd of white-sided dolphins.

White-sided dolphins usually strand in pairs but are also known to strand
in groups of up to 100 animals. Historically, these highly social,
deep-water dwellers do not survive strandings. The last major white-sided
dolphin stranding on Cape Cod was in 1995, also in Wellfleet involving
about 30 animals.

Fleet Bank is the proud sponsor of the New England Aquarium/Fleet Bank
Marine Animal Rescue Team.

Droplet: Atlantic white-sided dolphins range in size from 6 to 9 feet. They
are found between southern Greenland and northern Virginia. They are known
to travel in pods or herds of up to 1000 individuals. This species is not
endangered or threatened.

------ CORRECTION: OKAY, SO NOT *ALL* THE TRUTH ---------------------------
An astute reader in California pointed out a boo-boo in the February issue.
You may remember reading the story "The Truth About Great White Sharks," a
somewhat macabre story of the brutal maiming of a white shark by bathers in
South Africa. As part of that story, we printed the following: "Statistics
show that white sharks have been implicated in some 50 to 100 attacks per
year worldwide, most of which are nonfatal."

Well, here's what that *should* have read: "It has been implicated in
50-100 attacks on humans off the coasts of the United States (California),
Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. These sharks, however, are
actually more at risk from humans than vice versa. Off California, where
most white shark attacks occur, ten to twenty or more white sharks are
killed each year as by-catch in fisheries versus 0.13 humans per year
killed by white sharks." Those are the facts; I stand corrected. Source:
"The Forgotten Giants: Giant Ocean Fishes of the Atlantic and Pacific," a
publication of the Ocean Wildlife Campaign and New England Aquarium.

Our California friend pointed out that "...recent studies at the Fallarone
Islands show that white sharks bite first to maim their prey, wait nearby
and then return later, once it has died by bleeding to eat. Humans usually
exit the water as quickly as possible, or are taken out by other humans and
this may explain why we are rarely eaten. Who would want to test this?"

Not us. Thanks, Bob.

=-=-= OUT ON THE NET =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
For additional information, you might want to check out the following
websites. Some of these links represent partners in aquatic conservation
and animal husbandry; others are simply resources we think may help you
enrich your perspective on our watery world. By listing these websites, the
New England Aquarium is not automatically endorsing or verifying the
accuracy of their content unless explicitly stated.

Hector's Dolphins:

Magellanic Penguins:

=-=-= MARCH CALENDAR =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Saturday, March 14, 9:15 A.M.
Aquarium Medical Center Tour: How does a veterinarian know when a fish or
penguin is sick? How do they know what causes the illness and then how do
you treat it? Recommended for ages 6 and older. $4.00 per person for
members. $8.00 per person plus admission fee for nonmembers. Children must
be accompanied by an adult. Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

Saturday, March 21, 9:30 A.M.
A Look at Fish Preschool Explorers Class: This program combines a story
about the sea and the creatures living there with an art project, a related
activity or a close look at a live animal. Recommended for ages 3-5.
Children must be accompanied by an adult. $4.00 per child for members;
$8.00 plus admission fee per child for nonmembers. Additional admission
fees required for nonmember adults. Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

Thursday, March 26, 7:45 p.m.
Lecture: Nutrients And Coastal Waters: Too Much Of A Good Thing? Scott
Nixon, Director, Rhode Island Sea Grant College and Professor of
Oceanography, University of Rhode Island. Estuaries and coastal ocean
waters around the world continue to receive increasing amounts of inorganic
nitrogen from fertilizer, fossil fuel burning, and the waste from
increasing populations of humans and livestock on land. This fertilization
of our coastal marine waters will have serious impacts on biodiversity and
productivity. LOWELL LECTURE SERIES is free and held in the Education
Center. Seating is limited; RSVP required. Fax to Lowell Lectures at (617)
367-6615, or e-mail <>.

Saturday, March 28, 9:15 A.M.
Babies on Board Tour: Penguin chicks, lobster larvae, whelk snail egg cases
and a queen trigger fish blowing on newly-laid eggs are all signal healthy
signs in the Aquarium's exhibits. At any given time of the year, visitors
can see different animals breeding and reproducing. Learn what to look for
and when. Recommended for ages 6 and older. $4.00 per person for members;
$8.00 per person plus admission fee for nonmembers. Children must be
accompanied by an adult. Call (617) 973-5206 to register.


Wednesday April 1, 7:45 P.M.
Lecture: Impacts of Pfiesteria piscicida and other Harmful Marine Algae and
Dinoflagellates on Fish and Human Health. JoAnn Burkholder, Associate
Professor of Aquatic Biology and Marine Sciences at North Carolina State
University; 1997 Pew Fellow In Conservation and the Environment. Worldwide
increases in death and disease of coastal fishes over the past decade have
been related to harmful marine microalgae and heterotrophic dinoflagellates
such as Pfiesteria piscicida. The increasing activity of some harmful
species appears to be stimulated by nutrient over-enrichment from coastal
development. Impacts on both fish and human health appear to be
substantial. LOWELL LECTURE SERIES is free and held in the Education
Center. Seating is limited; RSVP required. Fax to Lowell Lectures at (617)
367-6615, or e-mail <>.

Saturday, April 4
Puffin Workshop: Join educators from National Audubon Society's Puffin
Project for an intriguing variety of science and art activities that focus
on these delightful northern seabirds. You'll see slides showing how
puffins were recently restored to two Maine islands, and you'll learn how
to make all sorts of crafts such as a food chain mobile, a seabird quilt,
and a 10-minute flapping puffin. You'll also take part in a
behind-the-scenes visit to the Aquarium's new puffin exhibit and a
discussion with the puffin aviculturalist. Pete Salmansohn, author of two
new Audubon books on puffins, will facilitate the workshop. Preregistration
is required. For more information, call (617) 973-5206. Co-sponsored by

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=-=-= CONTACT US =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
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=-=-= THAT'S ALL FOLKS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Thanks again for the honor of your readership.  Ever wonder if it's
difficult to come up with something clever at the end of this newsletter
every month? Something that has meaning, that's not just fluff, something
that sets your heart aflutter or incites you to action? Perpetually witty
(?), never at a loss for words, like any true Bostonian... your Seabits
editor thinks it wise to close now. Discovering why some songs, some movies
don't end, they just fade out... okay... fade ... out... see ... you...
next... month... which is coming sooner than we might think....