8 Organizations Making a Difference to the Whales of the Silver Bank

whale mom and calf

Like a Hollywood movie, working behind the scenes of one of the world’s greatest natural works of art – the annual gathering of humpback whales on the Silver Bank – there are literally hundreds of critical players on the credit list. From protecting their breeding grounds, to keeping the oceans healthy and safe for their continued survival, many individuals and organizations play key roles in the welfare of whales.

The following eight entities are appreciated for their contributions to the success of the Sanctuary and for other marine conservation-related efforts. It is by no means a comprehensive list and there is no ordination; simply recognition of what they do, a thanks to all, and a call for on-going support. Please visit their websites, learn more, and get involved. Continue reading

Announcing the Launch of Our New Website

Greetings to our readers here on Conscious Breath Adventures Latest News posts.  The big news from Conscious Breath Adventures, and the subject of this post, is the launch of our new website, which we are excited to share with you. We are excited to share a fresh new appearance and the best look at the humpback whales of the Silver Bank that can be found anywhere on the world wide web!

www.ConsciousBreathAdventures.com is much more than just a website about swimming with humpback whales, it’s also a great place to see, watch and hear the whales. Our readers have always been gracious with their appreciation of our photographs, especially the photos we include in our popular weekly Cruise Reports posted during the season. With that in mind, and knowing that a photo is worth a thousand words, our new site features dozens of amazing high quality images that capture for you the sense of power, time and place that are a journey to the Silver Bank, before you make the trip yourself. Continue reading

It’s World Oceans Day—How to Help, Every Day!

The oceans breathe for us (producing half the planet’s oxygen), provide for us (seafood is the primary source of food protein for over a billion people) and make us happy (unvalued but clearly priceless) – pretty wonderful, don’t you think? We need healthy oceans; it’s not an option. Helping to achieve that is not as removed from your every day actions as you might imagine. It starts with each of us, so put yourself in the picture starting today! Continue reading

Entanglement Report, 2-12-12

It is estimated that over 300,000 cetaceans worldwide die each year as a result of entanglement in lost or active fishing gear. The sadness of this was brought home to all of us this week with reports of encountering a badly entangled whale, on the Silver Bank, seventy miles north of the Dominican Republic. Captain Gene’s report is below and we’ll share any updates on the situation as they arise.

Photo via Flickr Commons, “Mike” Michael L. Baird, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/4718311537/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Conscious Breath Adventures staff are currently on the Silver Bank in the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic where they operate under permit from the government of the Dominican Republic to offer soft in-water encounters with humpback whales. On Sunday February 12th, the first day of week three of the ten-week season, staff encountered, and made efforts to help, a badly entangled humpback whale. This report was received via satellite e-mail from the vessel, the M/V SunDancer II. Further information and photos will be available on February 17th when the vessel returns to port and internet access is available. Please contact Cloe Waterfield with any questions prior to that time. Continue reading

International Marine Mammal Conference Delivers

A special report on the 19th Biennial Society of Marine Mammalogy Conference in Tampa, Florida by Jodi Frediani.

Wow, a week of total immersion with whales, porpoises, dolphins, manatees, dugongs, sea lions, seals, sea otters and polar bears without getting wet! I just returned from the 19th Biennial (my first) Society of Marine Mammalogy Conference in Tampa, Florida. What an amazing week! Nearly 2000 people, including many of the top marine mammal researchers from around the world, along with students, educators, naturalists, and boat captains, came together to share the latest in scientific studies, seriously network and have a jolly good time. The theme for this year’s conference though was less than jolly, “Cumulative effects of threats to marine mammals: Challenges to animals, scientists, and managers.” Continue reading

Canaries in the Coal Mine: Marine Mammals and Disease

Who doesn’t love dolphins, those cheery, bow-riding, promiscuous fellows, living the watery equivalent of the life of Riley? What their playful antics belie is that many of the marine mammals we share our coastal seas with are sick. Perpetually sick. They are plagued by cancers, viruses, pneumonia and other bacterial or yeast infections. They are sickened by harmful algal blooms; frequently deafened from shipping noise or seismic survey; and by exposure to toxic chemicals.

Beluga Whale

Beluga whales (the canaries of the sea) in the St. Lawrence Seaway are so contaminated, their bodies must be disposed of as hazardous material

Just as modern world diseases affect humans, our aquatic cousins are also succumbing to an increasingly toxic planet. Scientists like Dr. Greg Bossart at the Georgia Aquarium say that as top predators with large fat stores and long lives, marine mammals serve as “sentinels of ocean health” because they accumulate and concentrate the fingerprint of chemicals they consume. Understanding how they are affected by disease and contaminants in their environment (while noting they do not have the opportunity to emigrate or switch to a “healthier” diet) can help us become better aware of what we are doing to the seas. Continue reading

Happy World Oceans Day! How to help, every day…

The oceans breathe for us (producing half the planet’s oxygen), provide for us (seafood is the primary source of food protein for over a billion people) and make us happy (unvalued but clearly priceless) – pretty wonderful, don’t you think? We need healthy oceans; it’s not an option. Helping to achieve that is not as removed from your every day life as you might imagine. It starts with each of us, so put yourself in the picture starting today!

Every day people protect the oceans

Every day actions by every day people DO make a difference for the oceans

Here are ten free things you can change about your day, every day, that honor the world’s oceans. (P.S. you will save money and be creating a healthier planet for you and your children too). Continue reading

The Mystery of Migration

Humpback whale and her calf

A mother humpback whale and calf on the Silver Bank

Each winter, up to 7,000 of the 10,000 or so humpbacks in the western North Atlantic spend time in and around the warm, shallow waters of the Silver Bank, where we are lucky to rendezvous with them. Swimming half an ocean basin is a long haul by any standards but is a twice-yearly undertaking for the humpback whale. Reflecting on their journey raises more questions for me than it answers.

We understand why; they travel north to feed, south to breed. But I can’t help but wonder what it’s like. What triggers the decision to leave? Do they discuss it? How tiring is it after not feeding for months in the Caribbean? Are the calves whining at their moms (as my child would be!)? How do groups stay in contact? How do they navigate so precisely? When do they sleep? Continue reading

Humpback Whales of Tonga

The tiny Kingdom of Tonga, 176 islands and 100,000 people, in the clear blue, coral seas of the south Pacific is one of only two locations in the world where swimming with humpback whales is officially permitted. Whales in the southern hemisphere feed in the rich waters around Antarctica and travel north as days get shorter to mate and breed in tropical seas. Humpbacks arrive in July and congregate in the sanctuary of islands around the Vava’u group. A whaling nation until 1979, these annual visits are so important to Tonga that whales are now mentioned in 80% of tourism promotions. Studies estimate that a single humpback returning every year could generate US $1 million in whale-watching revenue over the course of its lifetime.

Humpback whale in Tonga

Humpback whale in Vavau, Tonga

In contrast to the Sanctuary for Marine Mammals of the Silver Bank of the Dominican Republic, (location of the other legally sanctioned and managed swim with whales program) Tongan whales are much closer to shore and can be experienced on a day trip. Twelve licensed Tongan operators run programs and while this is more than in the Dominican Republic where only three permits are in effect, a smaller number of people (just 4) can enter the water with whales at any time. Rules regarding approach distances and being sensitive to signs of distress are similar and cautious. Given the much smaller number of animals this is important, around 500 whales are thought to winter in the Vava’u island group compared to mid-range estimates of 5,000 on the Silver Bank. Continue reading

A Crude Awakening

Infamous as Moby Dick and also known as the cachalot (who was, ironically, caught a lot), is the sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalis. They are the largest of the world’s toothed whales, have the biggest brain in the animal kingdom and can dive to nearly two miles. In short, they are really cool! Life is not so cool right now though for a resident population, numbering around 140, just off the mouth of the Mississippi, where crude oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from a pipe ruptured when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 26th, 2010. As Gulf States prepare for clean up activities on-shore and commence the census of shorebirds, turtles, fish, dolphins, invertebrates and plant communities lost; we consider the sperm whale. Continue reading