How can China better save stranded whales?

In July this year, 12 melon-headed whales were found stranded on a beach in Linhai, Zhejiang province.

The scale of the rescue effort was enormous, as was the media attention surrounding it. The oceanariums alone sent 40 people to help. A nearby oceanarium, along with a coastal park and seafood business, provided pools to temporarily contain the animals. A particularly weak whale was cared for in an aquaculture pond, with oceanarium staff taking turns supporting it. This rescue attempt lasted 22 days, but unfortunately the whale died.

Eventually, six whales were rescued and released into the ocean. Successful rescues of stranded deep-water cetaceans are rare, according to Zhang Peijun, an associate researcher at the Institute of Seabed Science and Engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Daren Grover, managing director of Project Jonah, a New Zealand NGO, said without help even a healthy melon-headed whale can only survive six or seven hours out of the water.

Strandings are not uncommon

Cetacean and seal strandings occur quite frequently around the world. More than 1,000 cetaceans are stranded in the UK each year, according to Rob Deaville of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Program of the Zoological Society of London. Meanwhile, in the United States, 5,764 strandings of cetaceans, seals and sea lions were recorded in 2017, of which 30% were cetaceans. Deaville said as long as there are cetaceans in the sea there will be strandings. The real concern would be the absence of such events, as it would indicate “that there was none left in the ocean”.

What does “failed” mean?

A marine mammal is said to be stranded if it is alive on a beach and unable to return to the water, living on the beach and in need of medical attention, or died on the beach or in the shallows, according to the US National. Oceanic. and atmospheric administration.

The Chinese Cetaceans book lists 37 different species in Chinese waters, mainly located in the East China and South China Seas. There aren’t as many strandings recorded in China as there are in the UK or the US, but they do happen. During the three years from 2009 to 2012, cetacean specialist Zheng Ruiqiang single-handedly performed autopsies on 60 animals that died from stranding or injury.

Why do marine animals run aground?

Cetacean strandings occur when individuals are elderly, injured, foraging, lost or confused by the noise of ships. Understanding why can help us understand the state of the marine environment, and that’s what Deaville studies. He said autopsies of stranded animals find a clear cause in about 40% of cases; these are divided equally between natural and human causes such as bycatch, collisions and injuries caused by the propellers of ships. In the remaining 60% of cases, no direct cause is found.

China does not yet have national statistics on strandings of cetaceans or other marine species, so the overall situation is unclear. An article published in the journal Marine Policy in 2015 lists 97 strandings of marine mammals in Chinese waters between 2000 and 2006, as well as 66 incidents of bycatch and 30 injuries. Strandings were more common in Fujian and Zhejiang. The authors also pointed out that the lack of systematic recording and data collection made analysis and comparison more difficult, and called for a national network to report cetacean strandings.

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