Volume 209, September 30, 2021
Right whale off Race Point, April 2016. Right whales have a "V" shaped spot and no dorsal fin. This whale's head is to the right with light gray callosities roughing the profile. Tale flukes break the surface to the left, about 50 feet long. I have never seen a right breach. All photos by Rob Moir.

Cheer for Massachusetts Right Whale Day, April 24 (H.3869)

On April 20, 2004, Ramona Delaney’s 93 year old grandmother died peacefully. The funeral was held on Friday, April 23. On Saturday, Ramona with husband Matt Delaney and fourteen year old daughter Katrina purchased an over-sand permit for their jeep and drove out through the sand dunes of Race Point at the northernmost tip of Cape Cod.

A ripple in the seawater quite close-by drew their attention. Suddenly an enormous black head rose up. Gazing their way was a huge eye the size of a softball. The right whale wheeled forward and disappeared beneath the waves. Later a right whale breached. It’s entire body came out of the water. Rotating, it splashed down on its backside sending up great curtains of flung spray. The right whale breached many times over the course of about an hour. 

The Delaney family all felt this incredible show was a sign that Ramona's grandmother was okay. They found the solace they were seeking when the spirit of life shined brightly in a majestic right whale that day, April 24th. 

The Delaney family has celebrated April 24th as whale day. They ask Beacon Hill for this special day to be a moment when everyone in the Commonwealth may rejoice for the majestic right whales of Massachusetts. Their representative, Josh Cutler (Sixth Plymouth), has filed an act establishing Massachusetts Right Whale Day April 24 (H.3869)

Dead Menhaden in the Mystic River

Last Saturday, September 24, thousands of menhaden fish, locally known as pogie, were found dead in the Mystic River, resting up against the Amelia Earhart Dam between Somerville’s Draw Seven State Park next to Assembly Row and Costco in Everett. 
On the surface, literally floating belly-up, it looked like a repeat of the menhaden fish kill in the Mystic that happened in July, 2018. Then striped bass chased menhaden out of Boston Harbor and up the Mystic River. Near the dam fish swam into an ocean dead zone caused by a harmful algal bloom. All fish and suffocated quickly. Standing on a very rank Everett Shore, I could see larger striped bass floating in a raft of ten-to-twelve-inch menhaden carcasses.  

This September event I assumed was a very late harmful algal bloom. We were experiencing temperatures in the 80s. Then differences between this event and the July 2018 fish kill began to emerge. There were no striped bass mixed in with the menhaden. A fish circled just offshore of the rotting fish. I tried hard to see its shape, but the bright light reflected off the water. I waited for the Jaws moment of a predator taking a chomp out of flesh to no avail. Instead, I was observing the distinctive ripple action of a lone pogie. 

The current fish mortality event was not the result of being chased upriver by a predator because people had observed the fish mingling in front of the dam, alive, a few days earlier. Five days after the appearance of many dead fish, I was finding menhaden still alive, flopping, swimming in circles, and with head pointing upwards, spinning about.
Bigelow and Schroeder’s Fishes of the Gulf of Maine reports that “mass mortalities of menhaden occurred from spinning disease, which is caused by a virus named for the erratic swimming behavior and disorientation of infected fish.”  

The life and death of schooling fish is much more complex than we think. With climate change the impacts of our action become more difficult to find causal connections.
Ocean Innovation Prize

Just as the government funded the Internet, the Ocean Based Climate Solutions bill will award prize money for innovations to speed up the development and deployment of research vessels, unmanned vehicles, and sensors.
Federal agencies will be directed to develop careers in oceanic and atmospheric data collection. 

This will result in better informed alerts necessary for navigation, resource managers, fishermen, and the general public to forecast ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and marine heat waves. 

More Wind Power

Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the delegate from Puerto Rico, has introduced a bill that opens up opportunities to build wind turbines to the territories (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands). Currently PR gets only 2% of its power from wind. 

An ambitious national offshore wind goal for the Continental Shelf is set at not less than 12.5 gigawatts by 2025, and not less than 30 gigawatts by 2030. 

Fund Coastal Restoration

Delegate Stacey E. Plaskett, U.S.V.I. has introduced a bill that features $10 billion for shovel-ready restoration grants for coastlines and fisheries. $3 million will go to work within 90 days and will include compensation for fishermen labor and vessel use. $300 million per year for four years will provide grants to non-federal entities to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitats. Coastal restoration work will result in tens of thousands of new jobs.

Delegate Plaskett's coastal restoration bill, including fish nurseries, is currently part of the $3.5 trillion Reconciliation Act.

Going to Sea in Cleaner Ships

Transportation, a large contributor of greenhouse gasses warming the globe, is also in the bill. Bunker fuel, the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet, is used by much of the global shipping fleet. 800,000 tons of fuel oil sludge and other oily waste is dumped from ship bilges each year. Compliance with speed restrictions increases fuel efficiency and will reduce fuel costs. Reducing diesel emissions and electrifying operations will result in less toxic air exposure for adjacent, mostly low-income communities. 

To reduce our carbon footprint we should place the cargo of container trucks roaring up and down Interstate 95 on ships. 10,000 trucks worth of containers can fit on one ship. We can also transport more goods by sail since time is not the issue. There are worse jobs than being employed to sail ships. 

The Ocean Based Climate Solutions bill prohibits oil, gas or methane hydrate exploration on the Continental Shelf, except for the western and central Gulf of Mexico planning area, much of which is already riddled with wells. 

Harvest Your Energy Festival By the Medford Wind Turbine

Saturday, October 16, from 12 noon to 3 pm

By the Wind Turbine at Riverbend Park, Medford
behind McGlynn Middle School, Hormel Stadium Parking also

Join us on for a fun, sustainable event with entertainment, activities for residents of all ages, food, and great raffle prizes to win. The festival will be held at the base of the Medford Wind Turbine in Riverbend Park. There will even be the opportunity to visit “Windy” the wind turbine!

The Ocean River Institute along with 32 plus local businesses and organizations will host tables and get guests excited about green energy, advancing biodiversity, resilience and addressing the climate crisis. Kids activities will be provided by Knucklebones and there will be live music from Matt Heaton and Train Mix.

Root for grassroots and healthy soils sequestering carbon

Keeley and Rob will be completing ORI’s summer Natural Lawns for Healthy Soils Challenge. Twenty-six groups, towns and watersheds have teams that are competing for the most residents pledging not to put fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides on established lawns.  

Join with the Ocean River Institute to practice responsible stewardship, slow climate change,
eliminate harmful algal blooms, restore ecosystems,
and put a stop to the death of wildlife.
Make waves to slow rising seas
Practice better stewardship – Act to take better care.

For healthy oceans, watersheds, and wildlife diversity.