Ecotourism rise hits whales

Sep 1, 2014

By Daniel Cressey

 

Boat trips to watch whales and dolphins may increasingly be putting the survival of marine mammals at risk, conservationists have warned.

Research published this year shows that the jaunts can affect cetacean behaviour and stress levels in addition to causing deaths from collisions. But some animals are affected more than others and the long-term effects remain unclear, scientists at the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) in Glasgow, UK, heard last week.

“Whale-watching is traditionally seen as green tourism,” says wildlife biologist Leslie New of the US Geological Survey in Laurel, Maryland. “The negative is the potential for disturbance. That disturbance is a worry because we don’t want to do ‘death by 1,000 cuts’.”

The number of people joining trips has expanded hugely since the 1990s, from 4 million in 31 countries in 1991 to 13 million in 119 countries in 2008, the most recent year for which full data are available. In 2008, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, an animal-protection charity in London, estimated the value of the industry at US$2.1 billion.

47 comments on “Ecotourism rise hits whales

  • I was lucky enough to grow up in an area where I got to enjoy seeing nature, my parents had a large backyard and bush and creek. I’ve had to relocate 13ft carpet snakes from our home to the local bushland, we grew up with scrub turkey’s possums, large spiders crawling over you at night. I holidayed in the bush camping and have engaged with wildlife to a greater or lesser extent as a result, I have inadvertently swum with sharks, watched turtles laying eggs on Mon Repos beach at Bundaburg, swum in inland freshwater lakes at Fraser Island with the whitest beaches I have ever seen, I have Kayaked to North Mole Island in the Whitsundays and scuba dived on reefs at the Witsundays, I have jumped off cliffs into deep rock pools by water falls in national parks at Malany in Queenslands Sunshine Coast Hinterland, listened to Lyre Birds mimicking chainsaws and screaming children in rainforests (not in forestry areas but rangers use chainsaws to clear fallen trees from walkways). What it did do was make me from childhood a instinctive advocate for nature, I care deeply about the natural world and even when I was religious saw myself as reliant on and sympathetic to nature.

    Having prefaced this with my biases, I’d argue that we need to be very careful that we don’t exclude ourselves from nature or we will create a generation that cares not a bit about it. In my childhood national parks were better equipped had more rangers and public had greater access. I don’t argue that the public should have full access however in my state in my country the number of national parks have increased but budgets to run them have not. Where when visiting national parks as a child I saw rangers all the time, now I can camp in an area for days and not see one at all. Many areas are closed off to the public and I fear that our appreciation of nature is being diminished with good intention and I am sure some justification.

    This is one of the areas where I fear the left may take things to the point of being counter productive. Steve Irwin famous Australian Croc wrestler and advocate for nature did many good things for good environmental reasons however, he for example advocated that crocs and roos for example should not be allowed to be farmed. Happy to eat cows, and as a result have them impact more substantially on the environment but not happy to eat native proteins that evolved to the environment we live in each kg of roo or croc meat we eat is a kg less of cattle. Likewise native animals as pets, we have a flourishing trade in cats and dogs who when released into the wild (especially un-neutered) cause havoc but ask a lefty why we can’t have possums or wallabies as pets and see the reaction.

    If we find that whales are distressed by whale watching this needs to be quantified precisely and regulated by setting distance limits to whales, noise levels in whaling boats, propeller guards etc. Stop people appreciating nature and you will stop people appreciating nature.



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  • Reckless.

    . I was lucky enough to grow up in an area where I got to enjoy seeing nature, my parents had a large backyard and bush and creek. I’ve had to relocate 13ft carpet snakes from our home to the local bushland, we grew up with scrub turkey’s possums, large spiders crawling over you at night. I holidayed in the bush camping and have engaged with wildlife to a greater or lesser extent as a result, I have inadvertently swum with sharks, watched turtles laying eggs on Mon Repos beach at Bundaburg, swum in inland freshwater lakes at Fraser Island with the whitest beaches I have ever seen, I have Kayaked to North Mole Island in the Whitsundays and scuba dived on reefs at the Witsundays, I have jumped off cliffs into deep rock pools by water falls in national parks at Malany in Queenslands Sunshine Coast Hinterland, listened to Lyre Birds mimicking chainsaws and screaming children in rainforests

    You’re living the dream! Very fortunate to have lived in North Queensland.
    My suburban experience is more limited, though we still have possums in the trees plus a huge variety of large birds; cockatoos, crimson rosella, galahs, currawongs.
    Something I’ve noticed recently is the large numbers of dead animals on the road when driving away from the city. I’m not sure if this is due to a cutback in the clean-up rate or more traffic. I can’t say that I’ve noticed a reduction of park rangers in our local national park, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I’ll be on the lookout from now on.



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  • Hi Nitya,
    I spend my childhood in Brisbane but at the edge (there was a lot of bush and still some wildlife, creeks etc.) and holidayed largely around Sth East Queensland at Malaney (beautiful but getting quite built up now) and National Parks Nth Stradbroke a lot (beautiful). My parents were into camping so we often were camping here and there. Was then lucky enough in my youth the spend about half a year working/living at the Witsunday Islands. I must say extremely hot and you can’t swim without risking box jellyfish stings which are very, very nasty. Great out on the reef though. So I have lived the dream sporadically but it was like you mostly suburban. However I don’t think it takes much to shift you to recognising you are part of nature. I am very concerned that kids get some exposure to bush and wildlife so they too get to feel that they are part of the natural world and know how wonderful it is.

    I’ve spoken to park rangers about this basically governments like to announce a new national park so there have been new reserves and new national parks created since my childhood (there has also been significant development of other land also). Governments are not so keen to fund these properly basically they have more territory to cover, more responsibility with less money and staff. This is what I have noticed and picked up by talking to rangers, so it is anecdotal so you should take it as such, but I’ve heard enough rangers complaining about it to think there must be something in it.

    As for road kill. I taught in a bush school north of Bunderburg we lived in teacher accommodation next to the school there was a river nearby and a caravan park and that was it, we had enchiladas wandering about our front lawn occasionally, roos and wallabies, possums, brown snakes and Tipans also (learnt to watch where I walked- stepped over a couple thinking they were sticks) there was lots of road kill, you had to drive very slow at night because roos would get startled and jump in front of you where your lights would blind them they could then only see in the headlights so they would jump in front of the car – while you quietly crapped yourself slamming the brakes on and trying not to skid out off the road. If a car hit them their carcases would attract the wedge tail eagles who would then be feeding on the side of the road and would in turn be startled as you drove near having a 6 ft wingspan eagle flapping slowly in front of your windscreen while you hit the brakes crapping yourself – again, is not easy to forget. I never hit one, and I quickly gave up trying to get places quickly. I believe it is now all bitumen out there so I assume the kill rate would have increased rapidly, more’s the pity.



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  • Hi Reckless.
    We can see a National Park from our back veranda as it’s separated by a narrow stretch of water. I suppose our most frequent contact with wildlife would be birds and the occasional snake. I mustn’t forget to add the flocks of parakeets that fly over our house at dusk.
    Whale Watching cruises set off about five kilometres from our home. I’m fairly certain they would take care not to encroach on the whales’ territory, as they market themselves as Eco friendly. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for board-riders at our local surf beach. There are a lot of hoons in their midst and I’m sure they would get as close they dared. We are situated en route to their great migration path so it’s not unusual to see a fluke flapping in the water. Wonderful when it happens!



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  • Hi Stafford.
    And this is where you sent your criminals! Ha ha. When we host relatives from overseas (mainly Canada ), the thing that captures their interest is the presence our large birds, as I’ve already mentioned a couple of times. Birds that are caged in colder parts of the world, sit on our back veranda and peer through the windows . At times we will have ten or twelve sulphur-crested cockatoos sitting on the railing. We’re often woken in the morning by their loud screeching.



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  • Are you in Queensland Nitya or further South or West?

    I love the loud screech of a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo “YARRRRK!” cheeky buggers, certainly startled me more than once. I remember camping near some sort of conifer and every now and then you’d hear a thud, took me a while to realise the cockatoos where prising open the cones to get at the seeds and then chucking them down around us. At Straddie we get the whales going past every year. So you can sit at the coffee shop or pub and watch them cruise by. Quite remarkable because we never saw them when I was a boy so their numbers have obviously increased or they are swinging that way now (there used to be a whaling station at Morton Island – they may have been avoiding the area and have some collective memory). Actually last year a New Zealand seal (so rumour had it) and pup ended up spending some time there. NZ is a bloodly long way away I don’t know if they got lost, caught in currents or what, but to some degree wildlife it returning. Goes to show if you only give it half a chance.

    @Stafford: don’t knock the frog spawn! The creek that ran down our backyard was often infested with Cane Toad tadpoles as were the freshwater lagoons that would form on the wide beaches of North Stradbroke. because they initially had no natural predators the things where everywhere. I remember as a boy watching the crows pecking at their guts and thinking they’d be poisoned (initially you’d just see the carcases with their guts ripped out- still alive sometimes). The crows smart cookies they are have worked out what they can and can’t eat and must to some degree control their numbers, but they have been devastating in the meantime particularly to the frogs which they compete directly with. So the more frog spawn the better to my way of thinking.



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  • Nitya, stop it!

    Actually, a Dragonfly flew into our lobby this morning, so there.

    Of course, it wasn’t eleven feet long with a seven foot wing span, as I’m sure they are in your neck o’ the woods, but we poms get by.



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  • We have quite a few pigeons in London ! (Well they are wild and alive no ? ). A veritable feast for the peregrines that nest on high buildings. Also the “invasive” parakeets are doing well now. No doubt at something else’s expense.

    A few years ago we even had a whale swim up the Thames owing to navigational error, unfortunately to its death. Nicknamed “Willy” if memory serves.

    No sightings of wildebeests roaming across Hampstead Heath and Hyde Park yet. But there are lions and wolves in Regent’s Park ! (Home of London Zoo.)



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  • Stafford Gordon Sep 2, 2014 at 2:58 am

    You two have got me eating my heart out; all I had as a boy was grass snakes and frogspawn.

    You could pop up to NE Englnd to look at the Seals, Puffins and other sea-birds at the Farne Islands

    If the breeze picks up a bit I will have a look out in the back garden at the Red Kites and maybe the bats will come out at dusk!

    Whales, while present, are a bit scarce in the water, and hard to spot in the UK, – – but seals!!! That’s another story!



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  • For those who have sated themselves on the modern art on show in the Tate Modern, London, they could always go outside and watch for the peregrine falcons that nest high up on the building.

    Plenty of wild foxes in London too. Whether they could ever catch a rabbit after their diet of leftover takeaways and kebabs is another matter, but maybe they get the odd rat feeding on the same stuff ?

    As a kid, holiday times on the west coast of Scotland, saw plenty of porpoises, basking sharks and the odd killer whales. Whether the basking sharks ever get stung by the plentiful Lion’s Mane jellyfish in the sea, I don’t know. I imagine they have a reject system for stuff too big to go through their digestive system, such as plastic bottle or afore mentioned jellyfish. Bloody scary looking things up close whether they have teeth or not !

    Oh, and unlike Australia, it does rain in Britain, – and how !



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  • The city where I live is small. It has old highrise buildings from the late 19th and early 20 century. With this beautiful architecture comes many ledges . The city was once host to countless pigeons . One down town church’s roof was covered all day long with pigeons. Then one day a pair of peregrines decided to make one of those high ledges a home. It did not take long for the sight of a pigeon to become a scarce sight. They are there but you have to look hard to see them .



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  • Hi Reckless.
    We live in a coastal suburb on the outskirts of Sydney. Our proximity to the national park means that we see a lot more wildlife than those closer to the CBD. This also means that we have more direct contact to bush fires when they occur. We live on the crest of a hill on the developed section so that ten years ago, when the park was ablaze, descending the hill was like walking into the pits of hell! At night the sky was glowing red. Burnt leaves would blow across the water and land on our doorstep. At the moment we’re looking nervously at the dense undergrowth and wondering if this tinder dry bush land will be set alight this coming summer.



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  • We blame you ( personally) for the existence of foxes and rabbits! So there! Those early settlers saw the vast expanses as a great opportunity to hunt. Of course having no natural predators, these animals took over and forced less competitive species to extinction.
    As for your dragonflies……



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  • Alan4 Discussion.
    I’ve only seen puffins and kites on television. Getting things into perspective, we were AMAZED at our first glimpse of a squirrel! Watching numerous squirrels run up and down the trees in parks had us transfixed!
    Luckily we get all David Attenborough’s programs beamed directly to our screens, so we are familiar with the wildlife found in the UK, especially the north, the environment of which is in direct contrast to our own.



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  • Mr DArcy.

    . For those who have sated themselves on the modern art on show in the Tate Modern, London, they could always go outside and watch for the

    Ahh, there you go! The inevitable crack at our lack of culture! It always comes up eventually! 😉
    I believe you have experienced a very pleasant summer this year; plenty of sun and unusually warm temperatures.



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  • Nitya,

    Sounds lovely, other than the bush fires. I’ve often thought cargo containers on each street covered in a mound of dirt would be good on each street prone to bush fire, they take off so easily.



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  • Nitya:

    Ahh, there you go! The inevitable crack at our lack of culture! It always comes up eventually!

    Damn ! Caught out again ! I’m sure the pigeons who find roosts on the Sydney Opera House are just as discerning as any bloody pigeon in London, Paris or Rome, or dare I say it, Venice !

    And yes, Nitya, a very pleasant summer for the most part. ( I’ll forget about the August Bank Holiday when I turned the heating on for a couple of hours, more as an anti-damp measure than for actual heat. It rained heavily all bloody day !) But the ducks in the park seem to be OK !



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  • Reckless.
    That’s a creative solution! A glowing ember blown onto guttering filled with litter is all that it takes. We seem to be lucky. I think the tract of water is too wide for the embers to stay alight even with a very strong wind.
    We’ve been as far north as Cape Tribulation. I believe that bush fires are not a worry that far north as the rainforest is too damp? Bush land on the outskirts of Brisbane looks much the same as it does here.
    The devastation of wildlife after a fire is really dreadful.



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  • Nitya Sep 2, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Alan4 Discussion. –
    I’ve only seen puffins and kites on television. Getting things into perspective, we were AMAZED at our first glimpse of a squirrel! Watching numerous squirrels run up and down the trees in parks had us transfixed!

    There are still native red squirrels in Northern England and in parts of Scotland, but the invasive American Grey Squirrels have displaced them in the South.

    A few years back a Red Squirrel came out of the woods and ran up the ivy on to our upstairs window sill, before running off and up a tree pursued by next doors cat!

    Cats are good climbers, but they are no match for squirrels.

    The heap of white feathers in my front garden suggests that pigeons are less competent at dodging cats.



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  • Mr DArcy.
    Those pigeons are ubiquitous! You don’t get any points for them ( unless they’re some rare variety that fill a specialised niche). I think our pigeons are pretty much the same as yours, though probably not quite so conversant with Shakespeare. 😉



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  • Alan4Discussion.
    Cats are the bane of wildlife over here. Unwanted cats, often pregnant, are regularly dumped in the bush land and left to fend for themselves. A really tough strain of feral cat has emerged to wreak havoc on the native animals.
    I would have loved to have seen a red squirrel. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, even in a zoo.



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  • I live in Adelaide, Southern Australia. I have a river nearby that has a linear park walking track. Australian water rats. All manner of water birds. Pelicans. Black swans. Purple swamp hens, yabbies and turtles.

    When I retired, I noticed Eastern Rosella’s in my area. A quick bit of research found out what sort of hollow they prefer to nest in. Knocked up a nesting box. First season, and every season since, I’ve had the same nesting pair of Eastern Rosellas in my box. Not always successful but usually I get to see three chicks on the back lawn feeding.

    Across the road is a suburban park, so I snuck out there and put up another box. Scored a nesting pair of Adelaide Rosellas. Went further and put up another box. More eastern rosellas. I now have a dozen Eastern Rosellas frequenting my area.

    I have a 30 metre gum tree in my back yard which we planted. It’s the major roost tree in the area. Rainbow and Musk lorikeets. I even have a regular seasonal Eastern Spinebill that stops by to say hello ever year. Who needs a god. Heaven on earth. I don’t understand people who can’t see the beauty in nature. I can’t understand how anyone can kill an animal rather than takes its photograph.

    For overseas folk, Google Images, Eastern Rosella.

    This might have been covered by other Australians above. I’ve done whale watching off Hervey Bay and New Zealand. There are laws that prohibit any vessel coming within 300 metres (??) of a whale. Binoculars and cameras do the rest. If a whale, of its own volition, chooses to come closer to a stationary boat, that is ok. We had a whale come to the very back of our boat. Put it’s head vertically out of the water with one huge eye facing us, and stay there for over a minute. The crew call it spy hopping. They say the whales are very curious and do this behaviour frequently.



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  • There are strong for and against arguments around this. In the ’70’s Vancouver Aquarium had an enormously popular Orca / Dolphin and now Narwhal exhibit. The tank was not large, and despite the honest best efforts of the aquarium, the whales were probably certifiably insane, and all that would have been left of their fascinatingly large mental capacity would have been “If I swim in circles and jump out of the water, I will get something to eat.”

    Yet, at the time, commercial fishermen were routinely shooting at any marine mammal that came near the salmon on their troll lines. The “sacrifice, ” if you will, of these aquarium animals was a strong, possibly in practice the strongest, influence on altering public opinion and perception with respect to whales and other marine mammals.

    While some very questionable practises doubtless remain, and we see operations such as “Sea World” in California having to rethink some fundamental principles of their operation, I honestly believe the situation is not as black as it can be painted.

    I have been directly associated with the design and construction of purpose built whale watching tour boats, large and small, and the regulatory environment in which they operate is pretty tightly defined. Instances like the one pictured above are unusual, and when they occur are usually initiated by the whales approaching the boats, rather than the other way around. Since propellor (as distinct from waterjet) propelled vessels are heavily restricted in their maneuverability when close to whales, it is commonly difficult, if not impossible, to avoid contact this close, even with a 100 meter minimum approach distance.

    This does not mean that all are saints. When the ratbags are caught, the fines are heavy. To my mind, among the worst offenders are the “Shark feeding excursion boats.” These take tourists out to watch as sharks are fed, and thrash in a feeding frenzy at the surface.

    There is, or maybe was, it has been a few years since I was there, an operator on the Gold Coast in Australia who did this in an enclosed waterway, Southport, with swimming beaches not very far away. To make matters worse, the sharks in question were usually Bull Sharks, noted for their aggressive behavior, and with a definitely high human attack record. And, to top it off, he used animal, rather than fish, blood and carcasses, habituating the sharks to learn the smell of, and feed on, mammals, like us.

    Yet, for some legal reason or other, the local government was powerless to prevent the practise. Or at least this was the case when I was last there, despite the efforts of the neighboring and very responsible aquarium and whale watching operator.

    It is also a popular tourist attraction in New Caledonia, where at least fish carcasses are used.



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  • There is a point that I commonly make in an attempt to get people to have some idea of the unique nature of the Australian fauna.

    Which is that the first mammal with a placenta to enter Australia was a human being, about 50,000 years ago. The second was the dog, that seems to have come with the second group of humans to get here, maybe 30,000 years ago. They entered an environment entirely populated by marsupials, reptiles, and birds.

    Then of course, only 226 years ago, came the third group of humans with sheep, cattle, horses, cats, more dogs, pigs (maybe not immediately) rabbits (a bit later, and we know who the pommy bastard was who brought them) foxes (not long after the rabbits,) and then every bloody thing else, even deer.

    It is little wonder the environment, is as destroyed as it is. Even the grass is now almost entirely imported, since sheep and cattle don’t really do well on native Australian grasses.

    Disclaimer: Since there are people who read this, who know what they are talking about, in making the above statements, I am ignoring the fact that there are fossil records from long, long, ago that do show an early (very) placental mammal population in Australia. They became extinct long ago.
    I am also ignoring some placental mice, who probably drifted over on logs, or came with the first humans, and the bats in the trees, and the seals around the rocks, but otherwise, the above is broadly true.



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  • I am suspicious of the motivation behind this article; is it not better to watch whales than to harvest them, and the more Japanese visitors enjoy whale-watch tourism the more they’re likely to resist the resumption or continuation of full scale whale hunts back home?

    Similarly, I suspect those who object to wind farms – unsightly, and they kill birds – as if a coal fired or nuclear fission power station was a thing of beauty that caused no harm whatsoever.

    Better is not necessarily “Best”, but “Better” is the only sensible direction to head from where we find ourselves today.

    Best I’d reckon would be benign whale-watching, sensitive to the needs of the creatures, and widespread solar energy capture, along with a steep reduction in everyday energy consumption, not by radical lifestyle changes (which people won’t do willingly), but by radical advances in technology that make the environmental choice also the obvious economic one.

    Meanwhile, let’s promote Better, not hinder it with spurious concerns.



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  • Hi Nitya,

    Yes Brisbane is quite prone although there seems to be more controlled burning in Brisbane on a regular basis. Am I right in assuming it is more controversial in NSW?

    @David,

    Across the road is a suburban park, so I snuck out there and put up another box.

    I’m picturing you in balaclava IR goggles sneaking about putting up nesting boxes, dodging the law. I used to have a fantasy that as criminals get a thrill from breaking and entering, that if I ever fell into a huge amount of money I would break into poor peoples homes and leave big screen TV’s and home entertainment systems break into their garages and leave a new car (I wouldn’t actually but I think it could be a good premise for a movie). But you have inspired me we should all don masks and start putting up nesting boxes under the cover of night.

    @ Alan

    Love the puffins, tiny little wings very high wing loading so they have to flap like crazy but really move. Do they use the wings underwater?



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  • I’m picturing you in balaclava IR goggles sneaking about putting up nesting boxes, dodging the law.

    @Reckless Monkey

    Damn. I bet the Police surveillance tapes have been leaked to the media. You can’t trust anyone nowadays.

    I got the correct dimensions for Eastern Rosella’s nesting boxes off the Vic Govt Environment web page. 5=7 metres up. (I had to buy a new extension ladder and spray it matt black.) 500mm deep box. 5 cm round hole, just below the lid. And don’t forget to staple some chicken wire on the inside surface so they can climb out. Oh, and a couple of holes in the bottom for water drainage.

    My rich man’s day dream is finding some very poor kid with super low prospects, and providing an education and she wins a Noble Prize for uniting Quantum Theory and Relativity. And the solution was oh so simple. Even wrote a couple of chapters of the book but I’m a crap writer.

    So all that is left if a Don Quixote like internet existence tilting at religious and irrational windmills.



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  • Reckless Monkey Sep 3, 2014 at 2:51 am

    Love the puffins, tiny little wings very high wing loading so they have to flap like crazy but really move. Do they use the wings underwater?

    Yes they swim very like penguins, but unlike penguins they have retained the ability to fly.
    Various northern hemisphere sea-birds can “fly” underwater (to various depths) , in addition to flying in the air.

    Puffins & Guillemots Underwater, Farne Islands, UKhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWVfOcq5PeM



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  • 35
    Hugh Jampton says:

    We also have wild boar establishing themselves in the wild, and there was a recent sighting of a beaver in Dorset (in the River Otter, strangely enough). There are some beavers in captivity, but it appears that they may be re-establishing a wild population.
    Of course, many people forget that we had elephants and rhino here in Surrey and Essex, but that was an awfully long time ago 😉



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  • We also have wild boar establishing themselves in the wild, and there was a recent sighting of a beaver in Dorset (in the River Otter, strangely enough).

    Be very careful. 24 beaver were let loose (failed fur enterprise) in Terra Del Fuego in the 1920’s and now are feral and destroying the environment. Impossible to eradicate. On a recent tour down there, I walked 400 metres up a stream and saw four beaver dams. I spent 3 weeks touring The Rockies and saw none. The ranger taking our tour has estimates of 80,000 beaver in Terra Del Fuego. And they have made it to the South American mainland, an sea water swim distance of over 40kms. That’s lots of trees felled and streams dammed. All of which is in direct conflict with the native populations of flora and fauna.



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  • widespread solar energy capture

    Collateral damage of “burned birds” at Ivanpah (CA) is under debate. (same company involved with Desert Tortoise habitat fight.)

    Production on a new facility is dependent on an accurate number of deaths.

    spurious concerns

    The Galapagos Islands are being loved to death.



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  • Hi bonnie,

    Poor science does no one any good. We need hard numbers, this means I suppose in the case of the solar plant that a proper survey be conducted, for example a quadrant be staked out with cameras for a period of days (perhaps motion sensors triggered) so that actual numbers of bird deaths are recorded. When stats are questionable (that is subject to question not necessarily wrong) then there is a big problem. I imagine there is a zone closet to the focal point where the birds are dying it should be possible to establish how many are being killed in that area, they should also testing a number of birds carcases to confirm they are indeed dying from burns. Once you have accurate data you then need to a) work out how that compares to animal deaths due to say open cut coal mines and coal fired power stations and b) try to find ways of avoiding the deaths air cannons etc.

    Same with Galapagos, strict regulation needs to be applied to ensure minimal impact. A good proportion of tourist dollars needs to go to improving the environment.



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  • Reckless. This seems like a sensible way to separate the facts from the rhetoric. Sweeping statements need to be put to the test.

    Regarding your comment on control burning, these measures are carried out when conditions are favourable. Once again there is a great deal of ‘paper talk’ assigning blame to the ‘greenies’ for not allowing control-burning. I’m sure this is not the case as they speak up in their defense fairly often, but the papers love to attribute bush fires to the green movement! It generally fits into their callous disregard of the environment and the idea that any notions to the contrary are the result of the lunatic fringe. Of course it depends on the paper being read.

    One last comment about the photo of whale watchers. The vessel being used looks like a very unwise choice when it’s used to get close and personal with whales! No wonder these people are causing distress to the animals. The cruises that leave our shores do so in a large vessel, incapable of getting too close. They appear to approach the whales quietly, an in a non-aggressive manner. I’ve been on one such cruise though there were no whales to be spotted on the occasion. It was a pleasant experience anyway as we travelled up the river and admired the scenery.



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  • I didn’t think I needed to be more clear, but maybe I do:

    By “widespread solar energy capture” I don’t mean any specific technology, it was meant as a broad term to cover all technologies that harness solar energy for practical use in any way. Can’t burn birds with photovoltaic panels, for instance, or coils of black hose for solar water heating. Or something based on the photosynthesis and carbon capture of green growing things, birds could even nest in those. Maybe a role for GMOs here, imagine trees with red and black contacts on them to recharge your electric car.

    Meanwhile, “Better” is still anything – bird fatalities included – that does LESS harm than coal or nuclear fission based generation of electicity that’s not even used efficiently.

    I do agree that accurate observation and recording is required, whatever the technology.



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  • Once again there is a great deal of ‘paper talk’ assigning blame to the ‘greenies’ for not allowing control-burning. I’m sure this is not the case as they speak up in their defense fairly often, but the papers love to attribute bush fires to the green movement!

    Hi Nitya,

    Thanks for the clarification. We did have that problem at North Stradbroke Island as a local government decided not to do controlled burns for some time, we then had a few devastating bush fires over there which killed off a lot of forest areas. However if it was based on green policies or just not wanting to spend the capital I have no idea. As you say you can only burn when you can also. One on the issues I see with AGW is the likelihood that in areas with a lot of bushland increased periods of drought will lead to conditions not conducive to controlled burns and build up of fuel may well get out of control, they will need to be very careful about this sort of thing. I do try not the read the papers up here, every time I open the courier mail I feel my IQ draining out of my ears and making a mess of the carpet.

    @OHooligan,

    Not sure if you are referring to my comments I was making mine in relation to the article bonnie linked to. Anyway I agree with your general sentiment, I think we will need to work towards sustainability and that will mean striking a balance, in Queensland a prominent politician made the comment in relation to endangered bird habitat due to proposed open cut mine that “they have wings don’t they?” An awful lot of birds will be de-homed by the massive open cut mines, I suspect replacing the coal with wind or solar thermal would cost a lot less in wildlife, and as you say these are not the only options.



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  • Reckless Monkey Sep 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Hi bonnie,

    Poor science does no one any good. We need hard numbers, this means I suppose in the case of the solar plant that a proper survey be conducted, for example a quadrant be staked out with cameras for a period of days (perhaps motion sensors triggered) so that actual numbers of bird deaths are recorded.

    I think the point bonnie was making, was that the suggestion of “burnt birds”, was coming from a “carbonaceous deniers’ organisation, which had made earlier pseudo-science claims about solar-thermal plants and tortoises –

    Basically that the desert solar-thermal plants were a major threat to desert tortoises, when in fact the tortoises grazed on vegetation in desert washes subject to flash floods, where nobody with any brains would build a solar plant – (given the thousands of square miles of desert available), – and the main threat to the tortoises, they failed to mention, was a multitude of off-road vehicles churning up the desert for amusement!

    bonnie Sep 3, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Collateral damage of “burned birds” at Ivanpah (CA) is under debate. (same company involved with Desert Tortoise habitat fight.)



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  • OHooligan Sep 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    By “widespread solar energy capture” I don’t mean any specific technology, it was meant as a broad term to cover all technologies that harness solar energy for practical use in any way. Can’t burn birds with photovoltaic panels, for instance, or coils of black hose for solar water heating.

    That’ what I would have thought, but apparently some “Conservationists” are suing over photovoltaic arrays, – which to my thinking (being cool glass) are no more dangerous to birds than windows in buildings!

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/solar-farms-threaten-birds/

    The effects of wind turbines on birds, which research suggests kill far fewer birds per megawatt hour than do fossil fuel plants, have long been a source of consternation for many environmentalists. Their bird-killing effects have been serious enough to kill and hamper some planned projects. Now, as concentrated solar farms start to sweep the globe, solar energy developers are facing similar outcries and opposition for the harm that their clean energy facilities can cause to wildlife.

    The construction of solar panel farms and concentrated solar power are both booming businesses. In California, industrial-scale facilities like these are helping utilities meet a state mandate that 20 percent of electricity sold by 2017 is renewable. But if the problem of wildlife impacts festers, the growth of concentrated solar, which by one recent estimate could grow to a $9 billion worldwide industry in 2020, up from $1 billion in 2013, could be crimped by lawsuits and opposition from conservationists.

    Much of the problem appears to lie in the “lake effect,” in which birds and their insect prey can mistake a reflective solar facility for a water body, or spot water ponds at the site, then hone in on it. Because of the power of the lake effect, the federal investigators described such solar farms as “mega-traps” in their report.

    “I strongly believe there’s a way to show the birds that the PV panels are solid surfaces, not water,” said Ileene Anderson, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is preparing to sue over Yuma clapper rail mortality at solar power plants.

    It looks like they are confusing photovoltaic panels, with heliostat-power-tower systems, where birds flying into the small area of focussed sunlight near the tower would certainly be burned.

    OHooligan – I do agree that accurate observation and recording is required, whatever the technology.

    This article describes rare water birds flying into the static glass panels. It seems unclear what the cause of death is in this desert environment!

    The attorney cites findings from the federal investigation report, which showed that the Yuma clapper rail had been killed at First Solar’s 4,400-acre Desert Sun Solar Farm in California’s Riverside County. The facility uses a 550-megawatt photovoltaic array that produces clean electricity for Californian utility customers. (The group also cited a media report of another Yuma clapper rail death at a similar facility.) Birds can be killed when they smash into the facility’s solar panels, the investigation concluded.

    The next paragraph appears to be wild speculation as far as parabolic trough reflectors are concerned!

    The other solar farms analyzed by the investigators were of the newfangled trough and solar power tower varieties. They included the Genesis Solar Energy Project, also in Riverside County, which uses a trough system in which parabolic mirrors focus sunrays into a tube where water boils into steam that spins a turbine to produce electricity. The mirrors pose similar threats to birds as solar panels.

    If they don’t know the difference between the (real) risks from focussed sunlight in heliostat fields, and photovoltaic or parabolic trough systems, they have not done their homework!



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  • It is not just whales. If the present trends of mining the ocean for the last of the biomass continue unabated, there will not just be no fish, there will be no puffins, nor the other sea bids mentioned above, nor whales, nor anything, including a gradual and extending extinction of many other species, including all the top end predators, such as us.

    I have not seen the full documentary, this is only a trailer. I will see if I can download it from Amazon. If I feel like getting really bloody depressed, that is.
    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/end-of-line-world-without-fish/



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  • I think the point bonnie was making, was that the suggestion of “burnt birds”, was coming from a “carbonaceous deniers’ organisation, which had made earlier pseudo-science claims about solar-thermal plants and tortoises –

    I agree, my comments were in direct relation to the article she linked to not her comments. Re-reading my comments I can see how my intention has poorly mapped onto what I said (got to stop thinking my internal monologue is available to all).

    The poor science I was referring to were the claims of numbers of bird deaths extrapolated by lazy methodology and and just throwing out an estimate of scavenger recovery of carcases, These people were claiming 28 000 birds being killed on the basis of 183 dead birds collected. The company is now forced to go into PR damage control mode (I think they should go into attack mode rather than damage control myself). However as the article points out the companies own figures only site the birds they themselves have collected and takes no account for actual numbers of scavenging (which I very much doubt adds up to 28000) so the public is left in a haze as to what the actual numbers of death actually are which is why I would think it would be better if they carried out their own careful study so they could conclusively say over this period – this many birds where killed.

    Of course anyone can throw up doubt with scant or fraudulent evidence and then place a large burden on the company to defend themselves in the public eye much like Andrew Wakefield and the MMRI – Autism link. Huge amounts of money and time (and opportunity) have been lost to trying to repair the damage Wakefield caused. I don’t know how you avoid that.



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  • Stafford Gordon Sep 3, 2014 at 2:49 am

    We might just do what you suggest Alan4; the South has become far too expensive.

    The NE is going to over-run with thousands of half-marathon runners tomorrow, so who knows what they will find on the sands at South Shields, on the cliffs, or from the South Pier?



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