Nautical News: For the week of December 1, 2013

RIGHT WHALES ARE HIDING

Where does a 70-ton, 50-foot-long animal hide? What about hundreds of them? Scientists are contemplating that question because only one North Atlantic right whale has been counted in the Gulf of Maine which is their usual feeding grounds in summer and fall seasons. Researchers in planes fly so low looking for the whales that if they had engine trouble, they’d have just 30 seconds before the plane hit the water. Scientists believe the whales may now be further offshore finding their food. Meanwhile, shipping channels have been moved costing ship owners and consumers thousands of dollars in extra costs, fishing areas have been closed, fishing gear changed, and speed limits imposed to save the whales, and the whales aren’t even in the area.

 

WORK TO BEGIN ON SCITUATE TOWN PIER

The Scituate town pier where the fishing boats tie up is all set for a much-needed rehabbing. Work will begin in March thanks to the state’s Seaport Advisory Council, which is paying about 90 per cent of the $772,000 project. According to the Scituate harbormaster, about 40 fishing boats regularly use the pier, which hasn’t been updated in 30 years. The project will include new pilings and timbers at the edge of the pier, refinishing the pier’s surface, and improving the lighting and electrical systems. Scituate Harbor and Marshfield’s Green Harbor are the state’s fourth-most-productive ports in terms of seafood landings.

 

MONEY AVAILABLE TO DREDGE COHASSET HARBOR

And the town manager in Cohasset announced that up to $4 million in federal funds is available to dredge the channels of Cohasset Harbor. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has tentatively scheduled the work to begin next October and finished in January 2015 before the spawning season. Because of the deadline, work could go around the clock. The dredged material, which is said to be about 95 per cent sand, will be pumped on to Sandy Beach which is about two miles from the harbor. Consideration will be given to the piping plover birds on the beach, but no consideration will be given to waterfront homeowners regarding the possible noise from the dredging equipment and pumps in the middle of the night.

 

NEW PIRATE MUSEUM IN HYANNIS

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation that authorizes the town of Barnstable to lease the former Hyannis Armory building to Barry Clifford, the man who found the Whydah, the pirate ship loaded with booty off Cape Cod. Clifford will convert the former armory into a pirate museum and restoration laboratory. It could be open right after New Year’s with hundreds of thousands of items from the Whydah on display, including those that are part of his highly popular traveling exhibit, sponsored by National Geographic.

 

CAPE COD MAN DISCOVERS MORE PIRATE SHIPS

In a related story, Clifford also announced that he has discovered pirate ships off the coast of Madagascar, which was known as the “Island of the Pirates.” Madagascar was a frequent port of call for ships trading porcelain, ivory, gold, and silk. The ships lie in water 20 feet deep, relatively close to shore. In fact the wrecks are located so close to shore that Clifford swam right up to them from shore. The locals always stayed away from the wrecks fearing ghosts and poisonous fish.

 

2014 BLUEFIN TUNA QUOTA TO REMAIN STATUS QUO

At the 23rd annual meeting of the International Council for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, member governments agreed to a status quo quota as the year before. Environmental groups, including Oceana and Pew Charitable Trusts, praised the decision fearing that the quotas would be increased. The environmentalists believe that the early signs of stock recovery have yet to be confirmed by sound scientific assessments. They said the decision to keep it at status quo will help the species stay on a path toward full recovery.

 

GOOGLE EARTH CATCHES ILLEGAL FISHING

Weapons-grade uranium isn’t the only thing Iran is hiding. Iran also refuses to report its fishing catch to the United Nations, but thanks to Google Earth, scientists now know that Iran hauls in more than 12,000 tons a year from the Persian Gulf. In a first of its kind study released today, scientists at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver used Google Earth images to calculate how much fish was actually caught by Persian Gulf nations compared to what they reported. This is particularly important in the Persian Gulf, because fisheries are the second most important natural resource after oil.

 

NEW STUDY ABOUT SEAHORSES

And last on today’s news, scientists have been studying how seahorses are able to catch their prey because seahorses are not good swimmers, and they swim very slowly, but they are able to catch their prey using a secret weapon – their snouts. Scientists have learned that their peculiar shaped snouts create very few ripples in the water, allowing them to sneak up and pounce on tiny crustaceans. A recent report published by ‘Nature Communications’ explains that seahorses use a technique known as ‘pivot’ feeding, which involves a sudden, rapid movement to catch their food at close range without scaring their prey. So much time and effort has been put into this study that some believe the scientists can actually communicate with the seahorses.

 

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