Rare killer whales seen in Indian Ocean

On the sidelines of Operation Icefish, the Sea Shepherd group saw one of the most spectacular sea creatures in the South Indian Ocean while chasing a Nigerian-poaching vessel from the Antarctic. The crew spotted of a rare type of killer whale which was not been seen for decades.

The crew of the MY Bob Barker ship encountered “Ecotype D Orcas” while passing between the Crozet and Kerguelen archipelagos in pursuit of the toothfish poaching vessel, Thunder, in late December.

Bob Barker rare encounter with Ecotype D orcas in the South Indian Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd Global)

Bob Barker rare encounter with Ecotype D orcas in the South Indian Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd Global)

Robert Pitman, Marine Ecologist and Antarctic Orca expert from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, confirmed the whales are type D orcas based on the photographs sent by the crew. While examining the photographs, Pitman also said he believed they have never before been filmed alive.

Scientists admitted that little is known about this type of Orca, which is infrequently seen in inaccessible subantarctic waters. The last sighting of the rare whales was in 1955 on Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand.

The Type D orca is characterised by its large bulbous forehead, similar to that of the Pilot whale, and tiny post-ocular eye markings. From National Geographic:

While typical killer whales—types A, B, and C—have streamlined bodies and large, white eye-patches, type D whales have tiny eye markings and large, bulbous heads.

Researchers are said to have sequenced type D’s genome using material collected from a museum skeleton from 1955.

Research in Antarctic waters has revealed that there are at least four distinctly different-looking forms of killer whales, referred to as types A, B, C and D. (Photo: NOAA)

Research in Antarctic waters has revealed that there are at least four distinctly different-looking forms of killer whales, referred to as types A, B, C and D. (Photo: NOAA)

Bob Barker chief engineer Erwin Vermeulen  recounts, ”The crew watched in awe as the 13 killer whales, including a small juvenile and a large male, used the six-metre swell to surf across the bow. For almost an hour the surf-show continued and was accompanied by bow riding, tail-slaps and breaches.”

Sea Shepherd said DNA retrieved from the 1955 stranding revealed that Ecotype D’s genetic differences point at a divergence from other Orcas about 390,000 years ago. This makes Ecotype D the second oldest Orca type, and second most genetically divergent.

Determining how many species of Orcas there are is critically important to establishing conservation measures and to better understand the ecological role of this apex predator in the world’s oceans, it concluded.

Link: The Green Journal @ Asian Correspondent

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Mission to hunt toothfish poachers in Antarctic

Marine conservation group, the Sea Shepherd, is gearing up for another Southern Ocean expedition in time of Antarctic summer.

The group suspects the Japanese will not return to kill whales this hunting season, but if they do, they will drive them back to Japan. The International Court of Justice declared in March this year Japanese whaling in the area is illegal.

Sea Shepherd is launching the next mission called Operation Icefish to catch poachers of Patagonian and Antarctic Toothfish.

Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is the most valuable fishery in Antarctic or subantarctic waters. (Photo: AFMA)

Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is the most valuable fishery in Antarctic or subantarctic waters. (Photo: AFMA)

The group said toothfish poaching is another threat in the area that has had a devastating effect on icefish population. They warn illegal fishers they will seize nets and will work with authorities to confiscate illegal boats.

The Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, arrived in Auckland’s harbour yesterday after a voyage from Melbourne. The ship, carrying 25 crew from around the globe, arrived in New Zealand to source supplies and to prepare for the upcoming operation.

Operation Icefish will be the first campaign of its kind, using innovative direct action tactics to fill a law enforcement void exploited by illegal toothfish operators.

The Bob Barker and the Sam Simon will leave Hobart and Wellington, respectively, to patrol the Antarctic.

Peter Hammarstedt, Captain of M/Y Bob Barker and Director of Ship Operations said in a statement illegal fishing operations will be documented, reported, and confronted. He added, “they will be physically obstructed from deploying their illegal gillnets and unlawful fishing gear will be confiscated and destroyed.”

Michael Lawry, Sea Shepherd New Zealand welcomed the Sea Shepherd ship. He said Sea Shepherd launched a pioneering work to patrol the seas in 2002 with one ship that left Auckland  to confront illegal whalers. On its 12 years of operation, thousands of whales were saved. Come down and welcome the ship and brave crew into our port,” he said

Patagonian Toothfish

Toothfish is served as a gourmet dish in upscale restaurants. (Photo: Gourmet Traveller)

Upscale restaurants serve toothfish gourmet (Photo: Gourmet Traveller)

An Australian Government report said there is a large-scale illegal toothfish fishing around Southern Ocean which was first  noticed in 1997. Surveillance and monitoring were then put in place. According to the report, there was a spike in catch up to three to four times higher than the allowable and legal catch of species in all areas. According to the Coalition of  Legal Toothfish Operators Inc,  illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing for toothfish “has been reduced by about 95% since peak levels in the 1990s.” At present, IUU fishing for this specie is restricted to the high seas and mostly, they are caught by gillnet.

Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is the most valuable fishery in Antarctic or subantarctic waters. Prices could fetch up to $US10 per kilo for headed, gutted and tailed fish in major markets in Japan and the United States. Toothfish can grow to a large size (over 2 m long and 100 kg in weight). Its white flesh is considered to be of top quality with few bones. Tootfish is served as a gourmet dish in upscale restaurants around the world.

Blog Link: The Green Journal AU @ Asian Correspondent

Bob Brown honours three outstanding greens

The Bob Brown Foundation honours three outstanding environmental defenders at the Third Annual Environment Awards at a ceremony in Hobart today.

The Environmentalist of the Year 2014 was awarded posthumously to Joseph Roe, a Goolarabooloo man from Broome, Western Australia, for his lifelong work to protect the environment and cultural sites of the Kimberley.

Joe Roe and Bob Brown (Photo: Supplied)

Joe Roe and Bob Brown (Photo: Supplied)

Roe is known for his lifelong fight for the Goolarabooloo people, including the march towards stopping Woodside Petroleum from wrecking his land from massive gas hub.

The award with a $4000 prize money was given to Joseph’s wife Margaret Cox and daughters Rekeesha and Kerstin Roe. Bob Brown said, “Remove ‘law boss’ Joe Roe of the Goolarabooloo people from history, and the massive gas factory planned by Woodside Petroleum for north of Broome would by now be wrecking the Kimberley coastline, including the world’s largest humpback whale nursery, the world’s largest dinosaur footprint and traditional burial and ceremonial sites.”

Brown confessed he was struck by the man’s integrity and defiance of the odds to save the country he loved.  “Roe defied the money, arrests, threats and compulsory acquisition of his people’s land for a higher goal: the integrity of Aboriginal culture and the Kimberley’s remarkably pristine environment. He died within months of gaining victory for his country but his fighting spirit remains to inspire everyone else faced with the destruction of country or neighbourhood.

The Young Environmentalist of the Year 2014 was awarded to Peter Hammarstedt, captain of the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker.

Bob Barker Operation Relentless crew  portait ©Marianna Baldo / Sea Shepherd AU Ltd

Bob Barker Operation Relentless crew portait ©Marianna Baldo / Sea Shepherd AU Ltd

The award carries a $2000 prize money and was awarded via Skype, the foundation said.  Hammarstedt lives in Sweden and was unable to attend the event

Brown said Hammarstedt’s courage under extreme pressure from the Japanese whalers is commendable and legendary noting his feat to protect marine wildlife in the Antarctic two two ago.

Hammarstedt’s led the helm of the Sea Shepherd’s Bob Barker between two aggressive vessels: a Japanese whaling factory ship and a South Korean tanker in Antarctic waters two summers ago. “That heroic manoeuvre was crucial to saving the lives of hundreds of whales but was only part of Peter’s years of commitment to protecting Earth’s oceanic commons,” Brown said.

The Deni Greene Award 2014 was awarded to Alan Pears, of Brighton, Victoria.  Thes award, including $2000 prize money, is presented in honour of the late Deni Greene and recognizes an outstanding contribution by an environmentalist in their professional field of work.

Alan Pears

Alan Pears

“In addition to his outstanding ongoing professional and practical commitment to a more sustainable relationship between our human herd and this one life-giving planet, Alan was a great friend and fellow intellectual of Deni Greene’s. I know that she would be delighted that Alan is the 2014 recipient of the award honouring her own life’s work”, Brown said.

Awardees Profiles

Environmentalist of the Year – 2014
Joseph Roe

Joseph (Joe) Roe was born in Broome on 24 April 1966, the youngest of nine siblings.  He spent his childhood under the guidance of his grandfather, the late Paddy Roe at Jilburnon and Millibinyarri. Paddy taught Joseph about the importance of his law and culture, respect and protection of country.

As a teenager, Joseph attended Nulungu College in Broome, but realising school wasn’t for him, returned to live with his grandparents in the bush.

In 1983, Joseph met Margaret, they got married, and had two daughters: Rekeesha and Kerstin. They moved to Millibinyarri to live.

During this time, Joseph established the CDEP program and his whole family took part in improving their community.  Although very busy, Joseph would still find time to drive out to country to ensure no damage was being done to the environment and cultural sites.  He fought for many years to try and stop motor bikes and vehicles driving over the sand dunes, and installed bollards to prevent traffic destroying burial sites and the environment from Broome to Bindiangoon.

In 1988, his grandfather Paddy Roe, established the Lurujarri Walking Trail, to look after the country between Minyirr and Bindiangoon.  Since then, Joseph and his family have welcomed thousands of visitors, Australian and international, to walk, camp, fish and share traditional knowledge and stories along the way.

In the early 90’s, Joseph was involved with the Rubibi Native Title Claim for Broome and continued to work tirelessly to protect country.

In 2013, the community campaign led by Joseph and the Goolarabooloo people against the giant gas hub at Walmadan (James Price Point) finally prevailed, with the proponent, Woodside, withdrawing their plans.

Joseph died in 2014, aged 47 and is survived by his wife Margaret Cox and daughters Rekeesha Roe and Kerstin Roe.

Young Environmentalist of the Year – 2014
Peter Hammarstedt

Born in Sweden, Peter, 30, joined the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as soon as he was old enough to submit an application. He works as the Director of Ship Operations for Sea Shepherd Global and is a Director on the Board of Sea Shepherd Global and Sea Shepherd Australia Limited. Peter has a background in Media and Communications from Stockholm University.

In his 11 years with Sea Shepherd, Peter has sailed the seven seas under the leadership of Captain Paul Watson, from the foreboding Labrador Coast to the treacherous Antarctic Continent, using direct action to save as many lives as possible from illegal whaling, sealing and destructive fishing practices.

Peter believes that in their capacity to suffer, animals are our equals, and that when a government fails in its responsibility to uphold the law, then it is the responsibility of compassionate people to fill the enforcement vacuum.

Peter has crewed on nine consecutive Antarctic Whale Defence Campaigns and for the past three years, Peter has been Master of the The Bob Barker.

On the 2012-13 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign, The Bob Barker, under Peter’s command, was rammed on several occasions by the factory whaling ship Nisshin Maru. Sea Shepherd successfully prevented the whaler from refueling and the campaign succeeded in preventing the slaughter of 932 whales.

Deni Greene Award – 2014
Alan Pears

For more than 35 years, Alan Pears, 63, has been an inexhaustible champion of energy efficiency in Australia.
Originally a school teacher in the 1970s, Alan made the most of an opportunity to advance the cause of energy efficiency when he was appointed the head of the Melbourne Energy Efficiency Centre, run in the early 1980s by the Gas and Fuel Corporation.  When the Victorian Government took over the Centre, Alan moved into working for the government on energy efficiency policy and programs.  Since then, Alan has advised governments and the private sector throughout Australia, using his unique combination of detailed technical knowledge and deep research coupled with a highly effective ability to explain technical matters clearly and simply.  Alan’s enthusiasm for energy efficiency is contagious and he has inspired generations of university students, many of whom have also become energy efficiency champions.
His field of work, energy efficiency, was close to Deni Greene’s heart, as was his way of advancing the cause: through clear communication, provision of practical information, and the development of public policy based on solid foundations.
Whether through appliance energy labelling, building regulation or his many articles and publications, his work has touched people’s lives, empowering them to make better informed decisions that have direct benefits for the individual as well as raise the standard of energy efficiency overall.

Alan has been recognised over the years with numerous awards including a Centenary Medal in 2003 and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2009.

See also: Asian Corrrespondent