It’s critical that you do not disturb seals when viewing. All marine mammals (e.g., seals, whales, walruses, porpoises, dolphins) are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. If you do see an animal in distress contact your local member of the Northeast Region Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding & Entanglement Network.
The 2012 Summer Olympics are less than 10 days away and with this comes lots of intense swimming competitions (among other events). This got me wondering, if I lined up various species of marine mammals which one would be taking home the gold? Check out the average top speeds of 10 species in the graph below. (Now time to get the image of an orca wearing a Speedo out of my mind.)
I love getting questions from you. This post is in response to one of my favorite people wanting more information on the whaling laws in the United States. This is what I uncovered so far and am more than happy to hear and read comments about what I’ve missed or legislation that’s been updated.
1. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) made it illegal for anyone living in the US to kill, hunt, injure or harass all species of marine mammals (dolphins, manatees, sea lions, seals, whales), regardless of their population status. Also, it made it illegal for anyone to import marine mammals or products made from them into the United States.
2. In accordance to the MMPA it is illegal to approach a whale in the wild as it can be seen as harassment.
3. Also, since underwater noise (most often military tests using sonar) can be attributed to whale beaching requests for such testing must be made under the MMPA.
4. The Endangered Species Act made it so that it is illegal for anyone living in the US to kill, hunt, collect, injure or harass them. Also, it is illegal to destroy their habitat. Lastly, it is also illegal to buy or sell any whales. All great whales are listed as endangered.
5. The Pelly Amendment stated the US has an obligation to impose import sanctions on the fish products of the countries that violate any international fishery conservation program, such as the International Whaling Convention.
6. The Packwood-Manguson Amendment reduces the fishing rights of the countries that violate international fishery conservation programs in waters of the United States.
7. The International Whaling Convention was in 1946 and implemented an indefinite ban on commercial whale. This ban is still in effect, with certain exceptions. Countries such as Japan and Norway have not honored the ban. The International Whaling Commission will be having its annual meeting in Panama this June.
8. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) had its 25th anniversary in 2007 and in the beginning was seen a more rigorous guideline to follow than the duties put forth by the International Whaling Convention of 1946.
9. Gillnet restrictions have been passed making it illegal for anyone using a gillnet to leave it unattended for more than two hours.
10. The US Coast Guard has imposed regulations since whale collisions with ships are a major source of injury and death for many whales. When vessels enter their habitat they must immediately report to a shore-based station to gain a better understanding of their surroundings and learn measure to avoid hitting a whale.
For more information how how to save whales please visit the American Cetacean Society.
- Manatees are marine mammals and breathe air through their nostrils.
- Manatees belong to an order of marine mammals called the Sirenians. Dugongs are the other member of this family. Stellar sea cows were also a member of this family, but they were hunted to extinction within 27 years of their discovery.
- Manatees can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.
- Manatees closest modern relative is the elephant. Evidence of this relationship is easy to spot – both animals have three to four fingernails.
- Manatees are typically pretty slow, but, can swim up to 20 mph.
- There are four species of manatees: the West Indian Manatee, the Florida Manatee (technically a subspecies of the West Indian species), the Amazonian Manatee and the West African Manatee.
- Manatees are credited for being the basis for the mermaid legend.
- Manatees are herbivores.
- Manatees can live up to 60 years old.
- Manatees have no natural predators, but, they are peril. Find out more about their plight at Save the Manatees.
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How can you tell if that fin bobbing up and down in the distance belongs to a dolphin or a porpoise?
From far away you can probably only see the fin, right? The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin will have a dorsal fin that is hooked while the Atlantic Harbor Porpoise will have a triangular dorsal fin. If you are closer you will see other differences. For instance, the dolphin is about 7-12 feet as an adult while the porpoise gets to be about six feet. Also, the porpoise has a rather blunt nose while the dolphin has a much more pronounced, almost bottle-shaped, nose. Lastly, the porpoise is usually darker in color than the dolphin. Do you have another great question? Check out www.beachchairscientist.com and let us know what you always ponder while digging your toes in the sand!