Friday, May 14, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill - Prime Time for Whale Sharks at Ground Zero

We spent some time with Dr. Eric Hoffmayer, shark biologist at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and Dr. Joe Griffitt, aquatic toxicologist to discuss the current oil situation in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Hoffmayer has tracked close to 300 whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in the Gulf since 2002. He is the preeminent whale shark biologist of the region and has concerns for the seasonal migration of these animals, some of which have come from as far away as the Caribbean.

As many as one third of his tracked animals are estimated to be at "ground zero" the very place upwards to 70,000 barrels of oil are pouring into the Gulf and 500,000 gallons of COREXIT, a toxic dispersant, is being sprayed.

This map is an overlay of where the Gulf whale sharks most likely are and where the oil slick and dispersant is now.

"Most people have no idea we have whale sharks in the Gulf; it has been a terrific success story, we have just realized there are more animals out there then we originally thought, said Dr.Hoffmeyer, "Because the public is unaware of that, the issue of this oil spill and these animals is just not on the front burner. This is critical whale shark habitat."

"We're hoping that these whale sharks might sense the oil and move out of the area, we have seen other species of sharks closer to shore under a sheen of oil, but until we get out there and tag a few sharks we just do not know what's happening, or even if they are moving."

Dr.Hoffmeyer confirmed "This is the peak season for whale sharks in the Gulf: May through September."

Meanwhile, we asked Dr.Griffitt to comment on COREXIT a dispersant being widely used by BP and it's effects. "This stuff is designed to break up the oil into micro dropletts, the concern is where it goes from there through the water column. Smaller oil particles get taken up through the food chain very quickly. The fact is we're in uncharted territory, no one knows what these amounts of dispersed oil and COREXIT will do to bio accumulation."

"No one is talking about pelagic species right now in the media," said Dr.Hoffmeyer "or what this shower of smaller oil particles and dispersant might be doing to the wildlife - it will have a tremendous impact."

Dr.Hoffmeyer plans to have his team attempt to tag and track whale sharks this season. "We are linked with people doing aerial surveys right now and they report whale shark activity to us."

Dr.Griffitt pointed out "These smaller globules of oil will spend a lot of time in the ocean and once it mixes with dispersant this combo can be more toxic than the original substances, more study is needed."

Dr.Hoffmeyer is currently seeking funding from all sources to get an expanded tagging and tracking program in place for 2010. Those seeking to help can contact him directly at:

Dr.Eric Hoffmayer PhD
Gulf Coast research Laboratory

His website will be updating whale shark activity as it comes in and as the 2010 migratory paths are known. We will keep you updated.

White Sharks and Advertising - Wowza

Over at the Southern Fried Science blog David has an ongoing discussion about the new Nicorette commercial featuring a white shark attacking a smoker.

Here's some of Davids analysis:

"Perhaps I am overreacting to what was clearly supposed to be a joke and not a documentary about shark behavior. However, as I’ve stated many times, shark conservation requires that people care about sharks. As people realize that sharks are ecologically important and threatened, sharks will be better protected. Perpetuating false stereotypes about sharks as mindless killing machines who exist only to attack people who go in (or near) the water detracts from this goal."

We covered a similar video a few weeks back on MTV Europe.

Oilmegeddon - New Spill Estimates vs Admiral in Charge

NPR has announced the latest oil spill numbers at a stunning 70,000 barrels a day. That's almost one Exxon Valdez tanker spill every four days. Using the latest satellite imagery and input from scientists, NPR says this is a full blown disaster.

Then we have this guy, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen who says this spill is not a "monolithic spill," and after 23 days it has "the potential" to be catastrophic.

The burning question in the Gulf right now, what is the truth behind this oil spill?"

Deep Sea News - Homerun Video "Coffee Warning"

Thanks to Deep Sea News I sprayed coffee all over the place this morning with their latest/greatest video find. Asking the question on everyone's mind, "Can you really trust a Killer Whale?"

I always knew there was something not right about them.

Video Warning - Place all hot beverages at least 10 centimeters from facial areas and computer equipment:

Shark Fin Opponent Awarded - Speaks With Obama

Pretoma’s president and founder Randall Arauz of Costa Rica is the newest recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Awarded to grassroots environmental efforts in six geographical areas around the world, "The Goldman" is one of the environmental movements top honors. Winners of this prize are often introduced to a wide variety of political and financial "movers and shakers."

In this case Randall Arauz met with and spoke about shark finning with President Obama.

Randall Arauz

“When I started Pretoma over 14 years ago, I had no idea WE were going to go so far! And I say “we”, because over the years a team of dedicated conservationists has performed the most diverse of tasks to fulfill our mission, which is to protect, and restore, endangered marine wildlife.

Sadly, shark finning is far from over. Global shark population declines are estimated at 90%, mostly due to shark finning. Governments are drafting “Shark Action Plans” in an effort to reverse the negative trend on shark populations. But NOTHING has been done YET, to actually curtail shark mortality.

More than 100 foreign longline shark finning vessels still operate illegally in private docks of Costa Rica. Recently, investigative journalists have exposed drug trafficking and indentured servitude alongside shark finning at these private docks, whose operators take advantage of lax customs enforcement."