Subject: SeaBits, New England Aquarium news Letter

mike williamson (
Mon, 4 May 1998 15:00:58 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Mon, 4 May 1998 14:46:35 -0400 (EDT)

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New England Aquarium Monthly e-mail Newsletter
Volume 2, Issue 5, May, 1998
Copyright, New England Aquarium, 1998.
This month brings interesting news of what happens at the intersection of
commerce and the environment, with tales of whales, swords and leather.
Thank you to those who provided input on our Seabits query of the month:
how long is too long? Nearly everyone who responded said the Seabits'
length is just fine. So, until we hear from you again, we'll continue on
our merry way. - Susan Gedutis, <>.

In this issue:
  Watery Words
   - The Right Whale to Protect from Ships
   - Living by the Sword: Time Out or Not?
   - Tough as Leather? Life for the Endangered Leatherback Turtle
  From Moby Dick to Free Willy: A Free Lecture
  1998 is The Year of the Ocean
  A Frog in the Library
  May Calendar
  Subscribe/Unsubscribe Information
  Contact Us

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

"In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of
sand there is a story of the earth."
                                          -- Rachel Carson

=-=-= STORIES =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
This month's stories:
  1) The Right Whale to Protect from Ships
  2) Living by the Sword: Time Out or Not?
  3) Tough as Leather? Life for the Endangered Leatherback Turtle

------ THE RIGHT WHALE TO PROTECT FROM SHIPS ------------------------------
President Clinton late last night (Wednesday, April 22) approved a measure
that would require large ships entering certain United States eastern
waters to report in to a land-based location for a notice on the presence
of right whales. The proposal, to be presented at the International
Maritime Organization meeting in London in July, is intended to protect
North Atlantic right whales from fatal collisions with large shipsthe
number one threat to this severely endangered whale. The proposal is an
important success for researchers, environmentalists, regulators and
shipping industry representatives who first proposed it at a shipping
workshop sponsored by Boston's New England Aquarium Right Whale Research
Team last spring.

If adopted internationally, the new regulations would require all captains
to report to a central location upon entering U.S.-designated "critical
habitats" for right whales. They then would receive general information
about right whales and the specific location of whales in the area, based
on information provided by researchers in aerial survey planes. Vessel
operators can then take action to reduce collisions.

The eastern seaboard, a high traffic area for freighters, cruise ships, car
carriers, tankers and commercial fishing vessels, is also home to the
severely endangered whale. And the same traits that made right whales an
easy target for whalers until international protection in the 1930s make
them an accidental victim of shipping now. They swim slowly at the surface
and are sometimes accidentally struck by vessels. According to New England
Aquarium research, large ships have struck and killed at least fifteen
right whales since 1972, an enormous blow to a population that numbers only
about 300. Since 1990, eight right whales have died as a result of ship
collision, totaling nearly half of the documented right whale deaths during
that period.

Since 1994, an Early Warning System has been operated by the New England
Aquarium in the southeastern U.S. Every winter, New England Aquarium
researchers conduct daily flyovers of this important right whale calving
ground. Researchers alert the Coast Guard, Navy and local harbor pilots,
who relay the information to military and commercial vessels. Commercial
ships, however, have not been required to check in for an automatic update.

Developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
following the 1997 Boston workshop, the proposal garnered luke warm
response from Pentagon and Navy officials, who fear that the reporting
system compromises security and freedom of navigation. However,
researchers, government officials from the National Marine Fisheries
Service, NOAA, commercial fishermen and private shippers are unanimous in
believing this effort is an important step toward saving these whales from

Scott Kraus, New England Aquarium Research Director and founder of its
Right Whale Research Project said "Mandatory ship reporting will raise
awareness and educate ship captains about avoiding collisions with right
whales. But it's still up to the ship captains to make their own decisions."

New England Aquarium researchers have been studying right whales since 1980
through a combination of aerial and shipboard surveys, photoidentification,
genetic studies and, recently, radio and satellite telemetry.

Droplet: Most female right whales give birth in the near-shore coastal
waters of the southeastern U.S. each winter. However, males and non-calving
females are rarely seen in the area, and their whereabouts in the winter
remains unknown.

------ LIVING BY THE SWORD: TIME OUT OR NOT? ------------------------------
As the world celebrates the International Year of the Ocean, two
environmental groups and some of the world's finest chefs have joined
forces to launch a campaign called "Give Swordfish a Break."  The campaign,
initiated by SeaWeb and the Natural Resources Defense Council, calls for
chefs not to serve, and consumers not to purchase, swordfish from the North
Atlantic during 1998, until adequate measures to restore swordfish are
adopted. The campaign is intended to draw attention to the plight swordfish
face in the North Atlantic, where stocks are considered overfished and in
serious trouble. They are calling it a "time-out" rather than a boycott.
But will it help?

"As a consumer, it's not so easy simply to choose not to eat swordfish
taken from the North Atlantic. Most supermarkets don't know where their
swordfish comes from. And strict quotas and the small number of fish caught
in the North Atlantic mean that the swordfish you see in your local fish
market probably comes from somewhere else-likely, the Pacific," said Maggie
Mooney-Seus, in the New England Aquarium's Conservation Department.

So where does our swordfish really come from?

Ken Coons, executive director of the New England Fisheries Development
Association said in a Boston Globe editorial on 2/7/98, that of the 30
million pounds of swordfish consumed annually in the US, nearly two thirds
is harvested in the Pacific. There, swordfish stocks are not classified as
overfished. Of the remainder, more than 7 million pounds are caught by US
and Canadian fishermen under strict catch quotas and size limits. Another 2
million pounds come from the South Atlantic stock (primarily Brazil and
Uruguay), where populations are considered healthy and actively managed by
a rebuilding program. At most, one million pounds of the US supply comes
from fishing nations that are suspected of violating international
conservation rules. They can sell to other countries if the US market
evaporates, Coons said.

The problem may be the method. Until the middle of this century, swordfish
were generally harpooned, and only the largest-from 200 - 1,200
pounds-ended up on the dinner plate. Smaller swordfish were left to grow.
Now, swordfish in the Atlantic are caught by the "longline" method, using
lines of baited hooks typically dozens of miles long. These hooks catch and
kill two juvenile swordfish for every legal-size swordfish caught. They
also catch and kill other marine species including turtles and sharks.
Juveniles smaller than the minimum 44-pound size limit are released into
the sea. While the average catch is about 60-90 pounds, female swordfish
are not mature enough to reproduce until they reach 150 pounds. (Source:
SeaWeb/National Resources Defense Council)

Vikki Sprull, executive director of SeaWeb, said, "We need a meaningful
recovery plan for these fish so that all of us-commercial fishers,
recreational fishers, chefs, consumer and the ocean-will benefit in years
to come." Any truly effective U.S. recovery plan should include measures
such as: protecting North Atlantic swordfish nursery areas from long lines,
counting juveniles and dead fish against the total allowed catch, and
requiring much more stringent catch restrictions on an international basis,
Sprull said.

Droplet: In the 1970s, it was not uncommon to capture swordfish weighing
more than 600 pounds. Now the average catch size is less than sixty pounds.

Late in the spring, around the same time that the human snowbirds return to
New England from their summer homes, another large mammal arrives on the
scene from southern waters. It's the leatherback sea turtle, an endangered,
giant sea turtle that grows to upwards of 1,500 pounds.

Leatherbacks are a deep, almost-black color, with a freckling of
pinkish-white spots and a tough leathery shell-like carapace. They spend
most of their time far out to sea, and science knows very little about
their lives. Scientists like Dr. Molly Lutcavage of the New England
Aquarium who have made it their mission to understand the biology of these
unusual reptiles must rely on the assistance of fisherman to get
information on leatherback sightings. Unfortunately, fishermen and mariners
who do see these creatures sometimes find them entangled in fishing
gear-which may be one of the great problems contributing to the decline of
this species.

This year, Lutcavage has struck up partnerships with several New England
fishermen in hopes of finding live leatherbacks to track. She and her
colleagues' plan is to place satellite tags on leatherback turtles to
follow their movements and understand how their migration paths intersect
with fishing areas. "If we understand more about leatherback migration
routes, we'll be in a better position to implement measures to reduce
entanglements and mortalities in both inshore and offshore fisheries,"
Lutcavage said.

Dr. Molly Lutcavage in 1997 launched a public education campaign by
creating a poster that was sent to environmental agencies, the U.S. Coast
Guard and marinas asking fishermen and mariners to report any and all
leatherback sightings to the U.S. Coast Guard , or a variety of
environmental organizations including the New England Aquarium's own
stranding program.

Lutcavage has in the past studied leatherbacks at their nesting sites.
Every year since 1994, she has spent several weeks in Costa Rica, scouring
beaches long after the sun has set in search of mother leatherback, hoping
to attach a monitor to the turtle so she and her colleagues can learn about
their movements, diving metabolism and energetic needs once they return to
their lives at sea.

In 1980, scientists surveyed nesting sites worldwide and estimated that
there were some 115,000 leatherbacks alive. But based on 1995 surveys of
nesting sites in tropical beaches in Mexico, Caribbean Islands, the Indian
Ocean, the Pacific and South Africa, they estimated populations to be only
at about 35,000. Declines are attributed to a number of factors, including
loss of nesting habitat, poaching of nests, deaths due to ingestion of
marine debris, ship strikes, and entanglement and drowning in high seas
drift net and longline fishing gear.  Lutcavage hopes that her work will
help save this species, which some have proposed will be in serious decline.

Droplet: Heart rates in diving sea turtles like the leatherback can drop to
only a few beats per minute while they're resting on the sea bottom.
Leatherbacks are deep divers, capable of dives to over 2,000 feet.

=-=-= 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.

Right Whales and Shipping:


Leatherback Turtles:

=-=-= FROM MOBY DICK TO FREE WILLY: FREE LECTURE =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
On Wednesday, May 20, at 12 p.m., the New England Aquarium presents "From
Moby Dick to Free Willy: Marine Mammals in a Changing World." This special
Coastal America/Year of the Ocean free presentation features Dr. John E.
Reynolds, III, Chairman of the US Marine Mammal Commission. Marine mammals
have been a source of sustenance to humans for centuries. Join Dr. Reynolds
in an exploration of the status and human understanding of marine mammals
during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Examine the possible effects on
these animals of global climate change, pollution and human population
growth. Using New England species and issues as case studies, Dr. Reynolds
will suggest changes in how we deal with marine mammal issues as we
approach the 21st century. Preregistration is essential, as space is
limited. Respond by calling Taunya Orlando at 617-973-5223 or by sending
email to <> Luncheon presentation is held in the New
England Aquarium Conference Center.

=-=-= 1998 IS THE YEAR OF THE OCEAN =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
In recognition of the importance of the ocean to all of us, the United
Nations has declared 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean. The ocean
affects our lives every day, in more ways than most of us realize. It
covers more than 2/3 of the planet, it provides food for more than half the
world's population, it influences global weather and climate patterns, and
it serves as a global highway for transporting products and materials.
Organizations worldwide will be holding special events and lectures all
year to celebrate. You can get all sorts of information on what's
happening, as well as free booklets and pamphlets by calling 1-800-4YOTO98,
or through the official web page at <>.

=-=-= A FROG WALKS INTO A LIBRARY... =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
... looks at the Aquarium's huge collection of aquatic books and magazines,
and utters, in his belching voice, "Readit." You, too, can become more
froglike (or at least, more like that one particularly well-read frog), by
making an appointment to check out the New England Aquarium's aquatic
library. It's located in the Exploration Center, in the first floor of the
Boston Harbor Parking Garage building, across the plaza from the New
England Aquarium. It includes 4,700 books for adults, 500 books for
children, subscriptions to 100+ periodicals with back issues of at least
seven years, 500+ subject files, job listings, newsletters and Internet
access.  The Library is open to the public **by appointment only** during
staffed hours. That is, Monday and Tuesday, 8:30-2:30; Wednesday,
8:30-3:00; Thursday, 8:30-2:30; Friday, 12-5:00; Saturday,10:00-3:00, and
Sunday CLOSED.

=-=-= MAY CALENDAR =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Sunday, May 3, 2:00 P.M. or 3:00 P.M.
Behind the Scenes Tour: Take a peek behind the scenes in one of our
galleries! Recommended for ages 6 and older. Children must be accompanied
by an adult. $5.00 per person for members; $10.00 plus admission fee for
nonmembers. Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

Saturday, May 9, 9:15 A.M.
Feeding Time Tour: Why does one animal receive its food at the end of a
stick, yet another may eat off the surface of the water? During this tour,
you'll see what various animals at the Aquarium eat and the many different
ways they're fed. Tour fees are $4.00 per person for members. $8.00 per
person plus admission fee for nonmembers. For ages 6 and older. Children
must be accompanied by an adult. Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

Sunday, May 10
Mothers' Day Harbor Tour: Treat Mom to a special "Science at Sea" excursion
on Boston Harbor. The 90-minute trip departs Central Wharf at 11:00 A.M.
Call (617) 973-5206 for more information.

Saturday, May 16, 9:15 A.M.
Fish of a Different Color Tour: Color is important for fish. Check out the
many colors of the Aquarium's fish and learn how color helps them survive.
Recommended for ages 6 and older. Tour fees are $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, May 20, at 12 P.M.
Free Lecture at the New England Aquarium Conference Center. "From Moby Dick
to Free Willy: Marine Mammals in a Changing World." This special Coastal
America/Year of the Ocean free presentation features Dr. John E. Reynolds,
III, Chairman of the US Marine Mammal Commission. (SEE ABOVE)

Friday, May 29, 6:00 P.M.
Free Lecture by Dr. Carl Safina, Pew Fellow and author of Song for the Blue
Ocean. Dr. Safina will speak, read and sign copies of his book "Song for
the Blue Ocean" at the Boston Public Library. Dr. Safina is a world
renowned scientist, fisherman, and Director of National Audubon's Living
Oceans Program. Song for the Blue Ocean has received critical acclaim for
its assessment of fisheries policies and details about our planet's limited
marine resources. This program is FREE and open to the public, and it is
hosted by the New England Aquarium and Massachusetts Coastal Zone
Management, celebrating its 20th anniversary. For more information, please
call Debie Meck at 617-720-5101 or e-mail at

Saturday, May 30, 10:00 A.M. - Noon
Freshwater Wander at Bald Pate Pond, Georgetown, MA: With pond nets in
hand, join Aquarium educators as they lead your family on a freshwater
exploration! We will look under lily pads for frog eggs and sift the
sediment in search of dragon fly nymphs. For ages 6 and older. $6.00 per
person for members; $12.00 per person for nonmembers. Nonmember price does
not include Aquarium admission. Call (617) 973-5206 to register. Directions
will be mailed to all registrants.

=-=-= SUBSCRIBE/UNSUBSCRIBE INFORMATION =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
To subscribe to Seabits, either visit <>
OR send e-mail to <>. In the body of your email message
write "subscribe seabits" (without the quotes).

To unsubscribe to Seabits, send email to <>. In the body
of your email message write "unsubscribe seabits" (without the quotes).

=-=-= CONTACT US =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Content questions and comments? Contact Susan Gedutis at <>.

Technical questions and comments? Contact Bruce Wyman at <>.

=-=-= THAT'S ALL FOLKS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Thanks for tuning in again for another month of oceanic news. See you
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