June 10, 2011 Defenders of
“Scientists are concerned that the dolphins will have difficulty adapting as quickly as necessary to find new feeding grounds to sustain their populations.”
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains a worldwide “Red List” of at-risk wildlife species, considers 36 of the world’s 40 dolphin species to be in trouble. Threats include certain tuna fishing practices and run-off of agricultural and industrial chemicals into rivers that drain into coastal areas of the ocean where dolphins spend much of their time. Pictured: Bottlenose Dolphins jumping. Photo: Tom Brakefield, Thinkstock.
lasting negative effect on dol- phins by poisoning them and causing reproductive problems.
Dear EarthTalk: How are wild dolphins faring on the high seas? Recent reports of dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico may well be due to last year’s BP oil spill, but I imagine there are many threats to dolphins from pollution, human overfish- ing and other causes.
-- Henry Milken, Atlanta, GA
Dolphins are probably the most iconic and best loved species of the marine world. Their playful nature and high intelligence have endeared them to people for eons. But our love of dol- phins might not be enough to save them from extinction brought on by overfishing, pol- lution, climate change and other environmental affronts perpe- trated by humans.
The nonprofit International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which main- tains a worldwide “Red List” of at-risk wildlife species, consid- ers 36 of the world’s 40 differ- ent dolphin species to be in trou- ble. Yes, specific events can cause problems for dolphins— researchers believe that the deaths of 300 dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico over the last year can be blamed on the BP oil spill there. But more wide- spread and constant forms of pollution—such as run-off of agricultural and industrial chemicals into rivers that drain into coastal areas of the ocean where dolphins spend much of their time—are having a more
Also, dolphins have long been the unwitting victims of fisher- men targeting large prey, such as tuna. According to Defenders of Wildlife, fishermen started to notice a half century ago that schools of yellow fin tuna seemed to follow dolphins that swim higher in the water col- umn, especially in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. “Fishermen there have consequently found that setting nets on dolphins to catch the tuna swimming under- neath is a lucrative technique for tuna fishing, despite the fact that the practice is extremely injuri- ous to dolphins,” reports the group, adding that some seven million dolphins have since been killed as a result of the practice.
Also, our unrelenting demand for seafood—which has caused rampant overfishing throughout the world’s oceans—means that dolphins, which feed on smaller fish such as mackerel, cod and herring as well as squid, are having a harder and harder time finding food. And in Turkey, Peru, Sri Lanka, Japan and else- where, dolphins are hunted as a delicacy and also to decrease competition for fish resources.
As if these problems weren’t enough, climate change also looms as one of the biggest threats of all to dolphins. “Due to the rapidly rising oceans tem- peratures, the dolphin’s primary food sources are seeking deeper cooler waters,” reports the
But although the situation seems dire for dolphins, many countries and thousands of sci- entists remain committed to helping them survive. Marine mammal advocates are opti- mistic that the Panama Declaration, an international agreement signed in 1997 by several Eastern Tropical Pacific countries and others that bans using dolphins to track tuna, has already helped curtail the process that has been so destruc- tive. Whether these efforts will suffice to get dolphin popula- tions healthy enough to deal with what promises to be the biggest challenge yet to their survival—global warming— remains to be seen.
CONTACTS: IUCN, www.iucn.org
; Defenders of Wildlife, www.defenders.org
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. Trial Issue:
1. Name the female singer who released "The Way We Were." 2. Which one-hit-wonder group recorded "Nobody But Me" in 1968? 3. What was the original name of the group B.T. Express? Name its 1974 hit. 4. Which group was Peter Cetera in before going out on his own?
5. Name the singer who released "Undercover Angel." 6. Who was the original drum- mer for the Eagles? What year did he start?
Answers 1. Barbra Streisand. The song
was on the soundtrack of the 1973 film by the same name and won multiple awards. 2. The Human Beinz. 3. Brooklyn Trucking Express. "Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)" rose to No. 2 on the Billboard charts and No. 1 on R&B. 4. Chicago. His first solo, "Glory of Love," was the theme song to the film "Karate Kid Part 2" in 1986. 5. Alan O'Day, in 1977. While he's not especially well-known for his singing, he's written a wealth of material for other artists, as well as National Geographic and "Jim Henson's Muppet Babies."
6. Don Henley started when the Eagles formed in 1971 and stayed until 1980, when the band broke up. He came back when they regrouped in 1994.
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