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Great reading about belugas!


By Tom O’Brien

Belugas are also called white whales, and their unusual color makes them one of the most familiar and easily distinguishable of all the whales. Calves are born gray or even brown and only fade to white as they become sexually mature around five years of age.

White whales are smallish, ranging from 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6.1 meters) in length. They have rounded foreheads and no dorsal fin.

Belugas generally live together in small groups known as pods. They are social animals and very vocal communicators that employ a diversified language of clicks, whistles, and clangs. Belugas can also mimic a variety of other sounds.

These whales are common in the Arctic Ocean’s coastal waters, though they are found in subarctic waters as well. Arctic belugas migrate southward in large herds when the sea freezes over. Animals trapped by Arctic ice often die, and they…

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Amazing thoughts

Harmonious Awakening

When you work with your breathing, you are, whether you realize it or not, working with the whole of yourself. Your breath touches and connects every aspect of your being, and a change in one area can bring unforeseen, often undesirable, consequences in others. My advice, therefore, is not to bully your breath with your ego and its manipulative techniques, which so many people do, but to approach your breath with respect, wonder, and gentle awareness.

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Overfishing: a threat to marine biodiversity

Despite its crucial importance for the survival of humanity, marine biodiversity is in ever-greater danger, with the depletion of fisheries among biggest concerns.

Fishing is central to the livelihood and food security of 200 million people, especially in the developing world, while one of five people on this planet depends on fish as the primary source of protein. According to UN agencies, aquaculture – the farming and stocking of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants – is growing more rapidly than all other animal food producing sectors. But amid facts and figures about aquaculture’s soaring worldwide production rates, other, more sobering, statistics reveal that global main marine fish stocks are in jeopardy, increasingly pressured by overfishing and environmental degradation.

“Overfishing cannot continue,” warned Nitin Desai, Secretary General of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, which took place in Johannesburg. “The depletion of fisheries poses a major threat to the food supply of millions of people.” The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation calls for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which many experts believe may hold the key to conserving and boosting fish stocks. Yet, according to the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre, in Cambridge, UK, less than one per cent of the world’s oceans and seas are currently in MPAs.

The magnitude of the problem of overfishing is often overlooked, given the competing claims of deforestation, desertification, energy resource exploitation and other biodiversity depletion dilemmas. The rapid growth in demand for fish and fish products is leading to fish prices increasing faster than prices of meat. As a result, fisheries investments have become more attractive to both entrepreneurs and governments, much to the detriment of small-scale fishing and fishing communities all over the world. In the last decade, in the north Atlantic region, commercial fish populations of cod, hake, haddock and flounder have fallen by as much as 95%, prompting calls for urgent measures. Some are even recommending zero catches to allow for regeneration of stocks, much to the ire of the fishing industry.

According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate, over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. The dramatic increase of destructive fishing techniques worldwide destroys marine mammals and entire ecosystems. FAO reports that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing worldwide appears to be increasing as fishermen seek to avoid stricter rules in many places in response to shrinking catches and declining fish stocks. Few, if any, developing countries and only a limited number of developed ones are on track to put into effect by this year the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Despite that fact that each region has its Regional Sea Conventions, and some 108 governments and the European Commission have adopted the UNEP Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land based Activities, oceans are cleared at twice the rate of forests.

The Johannesburg forum stressed the importance of restoring depleted fisheries and acknowledged that sustainable fishing requires partnerships by and between governments, fishermen, communities and industry. It urged countries to ratify the Convention on the Law of the Sea and other instruments that promote maritime safety and protect the environment from marine pollution and environmental damage by ships. Only a multilateral approach can counterbalance the rate of depletion of the world’s fisheries which has increased more than four times in the past 40 years.

For further information:
Mr. Nick Nuttall, Head of Media Services, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi, Kenya.
Tel: 254 20 623084, Mobile 254 (0) 733 632755, Fax 254 2 623692, E-mail

Right Whales Again Offshore

Right Whales Again Offshore

Nov 15, 2012

Bo Petersen


Rare giants are back in the Lowcountry seas — 40-ton right whales. 

The endangered species will be out there all winter, so boaters are urged to be cautious. As recently as two years ago, an aerial-survey team spotted one of the whales off Hilton Head Island with a gaping wound across its back from the propeller of a recreation-size boat. 

Ship strikes are considered a leading threat to the 50-foot-long animals, said to be on the brink of extinction. 

People tend to think something that big would be easily spotted, but it’s not so. 

“Right whales are dark with no dorsal fin, and they often swim slowly at or just below the water’s surface,” said Barb Zoodsma, federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration right whale recovery program coordinator in the Southeast. “Just a slight difference in the texture on the water’s surface is often the only clue that a whale is present.” 

Each fall, females and at least a few males head south from their Great Banks feeding grounds to give birth and winter in warmer waters off the Southeast. Year to year, dozens are spotted in waters off South Carolina, some with newborn calves. 

Their route is heavily trafficked, and a NOAA rule requires that large ships slow to half-speed within 23 miles of the coast in months when the whales are present. 

Shipping companies have been cited for violations, including at least two ships operating off Charleston. 

Right-whale sightings already have been reported off South Carolina and Georgia, said Allison Garrett of NOAA. 

A Sea to Shore Alliance team flying out of Charleston is part of a network trying to keep track of the whales, partly so ships know when they are around. 

It’s not an easy task. The Charleston team was scheduled to fly its first flight for the season today, but team leader Melanie White said weather might keep them grounded until early next week. The flights this year are paid for entirely by NOAA Fisheries. 

Right whales were nearly wiped out by whalers in the 19th century. Only about 400 are known to exist today, so few that researchers consider every whale vital to the survival of the species.

Source: (c)2012 The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

A minke whale.

A minke whale. Photo: Eye to Eye Marine Encounters

Persistence pays off for Louise Southerden as she takes a dip with one of the ocean’s most elusive and enigmatic creatures.

It’s day three and our four-day “swimming with minke whales” trip looks like becoming a “swimming with potato cod” trip. Despite seeing plenty of marine life since starting our live-aboard adventure at Lizard Island, an hour’s scenic flight north of Cairns, my 21 shipmates and I have had only teasing sightings of minkes, mainly because of the weather: every day, gale-force winds have whipped the sea into a lamington of whitecaps.

Minke whales aren’t easy to spot at the best of times. They don’t linger on the surface like humpbacks, their dorsal fin is the size of a bottlenose dolphin’s and they don’t raise their tail flukes before diving. They do, however, have a tendency to approach boats. “You don’t find the whales,” says our trip leader, Dr Alastair Birtles. “They find you.” But not this week, not yet. Birtles, a marine biologist and senior lecturer at James Cook University, suspects the wind and waves are creating too much “white noise” for the whales to pick up the sound of our 32-metre boat, the Elizabeth EII.

He should know. Softly spoken with a David Attenborough accent, sea-blue eyes and a Santa Claus beard, he’s been studying the 100 or so minke whales that frequent the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef since they were first spotted from dive boats in the 1980s.


Fieldwork on the minkes officially began in 1996, when fisherman-turned-conservationist John Rumney invited Birtles and another researcher, the late Dr Peter Arnold from the Museum of Tropical Queensland, to join live-aboard trips on his dive boat Undersea Explorer for the newly created Minke Whale Project. (Rumney’s current company, Eye to Eye Marine Encounters, is now one of nine approved swim-with-minke operators; the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority issued the first permits in 2003.)

It’s a symbiotic relationship between tourism and science. Tourism helps fund ongoing research (there’s at least one free berth for a marine biologist on every trip) and tourists assist researchers by, for instance, observing whale behaviours and contributing photos of the minkes. In return, the presence of minke whale experts enhances the tourism experience.

Every night of our trip, Birtles gives an after-dinner talk that takes us to the brink of his understanding of these “marvellous little whales”, as he calls them.

“There are many basic things we still don’t know about these animals,” he says. “We don’t know why they come or where they spend the other 10 months of the year, where and when they feed, their population size.

“It amazes me that we can be studying a new subspecies, possibly even a new species, of baleen whale in the waters of a developed country such as Australia in the 21st century, and it is quite alarming that our knowledge is so limited.”

How fortunate, then, that minkes happen to be highly inquisitive. “There is no other large animal on Earth that keeps going around for hours and hours, looking at you,” Birtles says. But the season is short – 90 per cent of minke whale sightings occur in June and July – so every trip counts.

We spend our first day sheltering from the high winds in one of Lizard Island’s pretty coves, snorkelling and learning the code of practice for in-water minke encounters: don’t touch the whales, don’t swim towards a whale, don’t use flash photography and stay stationary – swimmers must hold onto a rope behind the boat (a “minke line”) so the whales can approach us on their own terms.

Early on the morning of day two, when the seas calm a little, we cruise east for about an hour to the southern end of Ribbon Reef 10, which forms part of the outer “barrier” of the reef. It’s a known minke hot spot, though you wouldn’t think so today.

All morning we stand on deck, scanning the whitecaps and finding our sea legs, before taking a break to go “extreme snorkelling”. It might be rough on the surface but beneath the waves it’s business as usual for gaudy parrotfish, corals of all shapes and colours, giant clams, shimmering schools of trevally, and whitetip reef sharks.

When we return to the boat, Birtles reports that he has seen two minkes, one of which lingered for an hour and three minutes (he logs every sighting on his waterproof clipboard). He cheerfully reminds us of “the P-word”: patience. This is nature tourism at its most unpredictable, our itinerary determined by wind and whale sightings, hunches and educated guesses about where the whales might be, which makes the trip feel like an expedition.

On day three, two more minkes surface briefly, and disappear. That afternoon we snorkel the world-famous Cod Hole, at the northern end of Ribbon Reef 10. We swim hard against the racing current, lose sight of each other in the chop, and try not to get swept through a channel to the edge of the continental shelf and a two-kilometre drop-off.

Eventually, we surrender to the surge and let it carry us back to the boat, where we grab the “potato cod line” to watch several of these spotted 150-kilogram fish swim and swirl around us.

That night, the crew decorates the ship’s bar with cardboard palm trees, a grass skirt and a cut-out sign saying “Margaritaville”. Despite the party mood, disappointment lurks at the edges of our conversations. Someone makes up a knock-knock joke. Who’s there? Minke. Minke who? You know, minke whale. No, sorry, I’ve never seen one. We imagine Joni Mitchell singing Big Yellow Minke, and Dolly Parton musing on minkes in the stream.

“Bugger the minkes,” says Hazel from Hobart. “I’m going to Tonga to swim with the humpbacks.” While we sleep, the boat steams south to our last chance, Lighthouse Bommie, where Birtles saw minkes on every dive last year. The next morning there are patches of blue sky, the wind has eased and the chef lifts our last-day spirits with blueberry pancakes.

We’re putting on our wetsuits for another snorkel session when we hear a shout from the top deck: “Minke!” When it dives and is gone, we stick to plan A and swim over to the bommie, a 15-metre column of coral, to snorkel with turtles and an olive sea snake. Half an hour later, there is another shout. The minke has returned, and brought friends. It’s on. We hurry back to the boat, grab on to the minke line and stare into the deep.

Within minutes, a shape materialises and, in what feels like a red-carpet moment, a minke whale swims along the line, as if greeting each of us in turn. Another follows. I count eight minkes at once. There’s a revolving door of minkes below us and around us, swimming past, circling the boat and coming past again, closer each time. One does a pirouette on its tail. Another pokes its pointy snout (part of its name, acutorostrata, means “sharp nose”) out of the water right beside me.

They’re like stretch-limo dolphins, and they’re not: this is less frenetic than swimming with dolphins, more ethereal. Minkes are all grace and mystery.

For almost nine hours, with a short break when we lean over the ship’s railings to watch the minkes from above, we swim with 16 wild minke whales, reluctantly leaving the water only when the light begins to fade.

As soon as we clamber back onto the boat, the minke line is pulled in and the engine started – it’ll take us from sunset to sunrise to cruise south to Port Douglas, where our trip will end the next morning.

But no one is in a hurry to warm up with a hot shower. Instead, we stand on deck in our wetsuits and towels watching the minkes farewell us by swimming back and forth across our wake.

The ship’s dining room is abuzz that night, but we quieten down for Birtles’ end-of-trip briefing. The second-roughest trip he has done in 17 years, he says, has yielded the best encounter of the season, in terms of duration and the number of whales seen.

In his most professorial voice, he gives us “11 out of 10 for persistence” and makes us all honorary Friends of the Minke Whale Project – a happy ending to a trip that had already ended happily with our all-day minke encounter. It’s win-win-win, really, for us, for science and for the wild marine mammals this tourism-funded research is helping to understand and protect: the enigmatic minke whales.

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Thousands of servicemen died in April of 1942 — during World War II — while being forced to walk for days in the Philippines. In honor of these fallen heroes, thousands will be marching a similar route through a desert in New Mexico and Sea Shepherd’s Matthew Smith will be there.

The 23rd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March will be held on March 25. Registration is now closed to the public for this 26-mile marathon, but you can still show your support. As posted on the official site at

The Public is invited to attend the “Heroes of Bataan” Memorial Monument 10th Anniversary Dedication Ceremony on Saturday, 24 March 2012, 9AM-10AM, Veteran’s Memorial Park, 2651 Roadrunner Parkway, Las Cruces, NM.

Matt is very excited about this event. He says that he will do his best to win the race but he’s just glad he can go to represent…

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Infiltration of Political Movements Is the Norm, Not the Exception in the United States

Thursday 15 March 2012
by: Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Occupy Washington, DC | News Analysis

On March 6 members of an off-shoot of Anonymous, Lulzsec, were arrested as a result of an FBI informant, Sabu, who the media describes as a Lulzsec leader. The six arrests were for people allegedly involved with Lulzsec which became known for targeting Sony, the CIA, the U.S. Senate, and FBI, as well as Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal.

Exactly one year ago to the day of the arrests, The Guardian published an article headlined, “One in four US hackers ‘is an FBI informer.’” The article described how the FBI had used the threat of long sentences to turn some members of Anonymous and similar groups into informants.  It also described how the group was open to infiltration. On Democracy Now, Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who is an expert on digital media, hackers and the law, said:  “There had been rumors of infiltration or informants. At some level, Anonymous is quite easy to infiltrate, because anyone can sort of join and participate. And so, there had been rumors of this sort of activity happening for quite a long time.” 

In Part I of this series, Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Mis-direct are Widespread in Occupywe described reports of widespread infiltration of the Occupy. In this article we will describe the history of infiltration of political movements in the United States and the goals of infiltration. Part III of this series will describe behavior of infiltrators, how other movements have countered infiltrators and what Occupy can do to minimize the damage from infiltrators.

Infiltration is the Norm, not the Exception, of U.S. Political Movements

When the long history of political infiltration is reviewed, the Occupy Movement should be surprised if it is not infiltrated.  Almost every movement in modern history has been infiltrated by police and others using many of the same tactics we are now seeing in Occupy. 

Also Read: Part One – Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Misdirect Is Widespread in Occupy

Virtually every movement has been the target of police surveillance and disruption activities.  The most famous surveillance program was the FBI’s COINTELPRO which according to COINTELPRO Documents targeted the women’s rights, Civil Rights, anti-war and peace movements, the New Left, socialists, communists and independence movement for Puerto Rico, among others.  Among the groups infiltrated were the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, Congress for Racial Equality, the American Indian Movement, Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Black Panthers and Weather Underground. Significant leaders from Albert Einstein to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who are both memorialized in Washington, were monitored. The rule in the United States is to be infiltrated; the exception is not to be.

The Church Committee documented a history of use of the FBI for purposes of political repression. They described infiltration efforts going  back to World War I, including the 1920s, when agents were charged with rounding up “anarchists and revolutionaries” for deportation. The Church Committee found infiltration efforts growing from 1936 through 1976, with COINTELPRO as the major program. While these domestic political spying and disruption programs were supposed to stop in 1976, in fact they have continued. As reported in “The Price of Dissent,” Federal Magistrate Joan Lefkow found in 1991, the record “shows that despite regulations, orders and consent decrees prohibiting such activities, the FBI had continued to collect information concerning only the exercise of free speech.”

How many agents or infiltrators can we expect to see inside a movement? One of the most notorious “police riots” was the 1968 Democratic Party Convention.  Independent journalist Yasha Levine writes: “During the 1968 protests of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which drew about 10,000 protesters and was brutally crushed by the police, 1 out of 6 protesters was a federal undercover agent. That’s right, 1/6th of the total protesting population was made up of spooks drawn from various federal agencies. That’s roughly 1,600 people! The stat came from an Army document obtained by CBS News in 1978, a full decade after the protest took place. According to CBS, the infiltrators were not passive observers, monitoring and relaying information to central command, but were involved in violent confrontations with the police.” [Emphasis in original.]

Peter Camejo, who ran for Governor of California in 2003 as a Green and as Ralph Nader’s vice president in 2004, often told the story about his 1976 presidential campaign. Camejo able to get the FBI in court after finding their offices broken into and suing them over COINTELPRO activities.  The judge asked the Special Agent in Charge how many FBI agents worked in Camejo’s presidential campaign; the answer was 66 agents.  Camejo estimated he had a campaign staff of about 400 across the country.  Once again that would be an infiltration rate of 1 out of 6 people.  Camejo discovered that among the agents was his campaign co-chair. He also discovered eavesdropping equipment in his campaign office and documents showing the FBI had followed him since he was a student activist at 18 years old.

The federal infiltration is buttressed by local and state police.  Local police infiltrators have a long tradition dating back to the Haymarket riots of 1886 and the 1904 “Italian Squad in New York City. In addition to political activity they were also involved in infiltrations of unions especially around strikes. Common throughout the United States were the so-called “Red Squads” a 1963 report estimated 300,000 officers were involved in surveillance of political activities. These were local police focused on the same types of people as the FBI.  Some of their activities included assassinations of political activists.

In fact, a predecessor to the modern Occupy, the Bonus March of 1932 was infiltrated by federal agents.  Their focus was on radicals, anarchists and Communists who might be in the movement.  The infiltration resulted in greatly exaggerated reports about radicals inside the Bonus encampments, which were primarily made up of veterans and their families that were used to help justify their removal by President Herbert Hoover with military troops acting against veterans under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, assisted by then-colonels Eisenhower and Patton.

Another predecessor to the Occupy, Resurrection City of 1968, a “community of love and brotherhood,” that occupied the Washington, DC mall for four months was organized by the Poor People’s Campaign fulfilling a plan made prior to the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Resurrection City was heavily infiltrated by layers of police including the FBI, military, Park Police, Secret Service and Metropolitan DC police.  FBI director Hoover had agents go to press conferences with false media identification, stationed FBI agents around the perimeter of the encampment and authorized an expensive informant program.  After the FBI, the most expensive infiltration of Resurrection City was military intelligence which conducted an unlawful surveillance program, intercepting radio transmissions, monitoring radio traffic and intercepting all communications which were then passed on to the FBI, Secret Service, DC police and Park Police. The military also sent fictitious media to press conferences. The Metropolitan DC police “red squad” sent undercover officers into the camp and took mug shots of its members. 

Infiltration tactics continue, perhaps have even escalated today. In a recent report the ACLU writes: “Today the government is spying on Americans in ways the founders of our country never could have imagined. The FBI, federal intelligence agencies, the militarystate and local policeprivate companies, and even firemen and emergency medical technicians are gathering incredible amounts of personal information about ordinary Americans that can be used to construct vast dossiers that can be widely shared with a simple mouse-click through new institutions like Joint Terrorism Task Forcesfusion centers, and public-private partnerships. The fear of terrorism has led to a new era of overzealous police intelligence activity directed, as in the past, against political activists, racial and religious minorities, and immigrants.” There have also multiple reports of the CIA working with New York City police for years, an activity that is almost certainly illegal.

Not only have budgets increased in the post-911 world, but restrictions on spying have been weakened and court review has become rarer.  The government, often with corporate interests, are gathering huge amounts of data on Americans and targeting a wide range of groups and individuals for intelligence gathering and infiltration. The extent of spying is so widespread that it is more than this brief article can examine, but the ACLU provides a state-by-state review.

We will not know the extent of current infiltration and the activities of government agents for quite some time, but in the post-911 world, with record intelligence budgets and a massive new homeland security bureaucracy, spying is very likely more extensive than ever.  Add to that the private security of corporations and political organizations tied to the two political parties and the extent of Occupy infiltration is very likely quite extensive.

What Have Been the Goals, Strategies and Tactics of Past Infiltration?

The most common purpose of infiltration is the intelligence function of gathering information, but the goals are commonly more aggressive. Herbert Hoover ordered FBI agents to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” the activities of these movements and their leaders according to COINTELPRO Documents.

According to, Surveillance and Governance: Crime Control and Beyond, the goal of COINTELPRO was also to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, or otherwise neutralize” groups.  FBI field operatives were directed to:

1. Create a negative public image for target groups by surveiling activists and then releasing negative personal information to the public.

2. Break down internal organization by creating conflicts by having agents exacerbate racial tensions, or send anonymous letters to try to create conflicts.

3. Create dissension between groups by spreading rumors that other groups were stealing money.

4. Restrict access to public resources by pressuring non-profit organizations to cut off funding or material support.

5. Restrict the ability to organize protests through agents promoting violence against police during planning and at protests.

6. Restrict the ability of individuals to participate in group activities by character assassinations, false arrests, surveillance.

The COINTELPRO documents disclose numerous cases of the FBI’s intentions to stop the mass protest against the Vietnam War. Many techniques were used to accomplish the assignment. The documents state: “These included promoting splits among antiwar forces, encouraging red-baiting of socialists, and pushing violent confrontations as an alternative to massive, peaceful demonstrations.”

Infiltration to gather intelligence and intentionally disrupt and break up social movements is common in the United States. At this point in history when the degree of wealth inequality has reached such staggering proportions that the richest 400 people have the same wealth as the bottom 154,000,000 people, when unemployment and foreclosures rates are high, when tens of millions can’t afford health care and students can’t afford to go to college, those in power are fearful that the people will rise up. Events of the past year, particularly the Occupy, reveal that this uprising has begun. It is likely that the powerful will use the tools available to stop Occupy, including infiltration to disrupt, divide and misdirect.

In Part III, we will describe common behaviors of infiltrators and how other social movements have tried to minimize the impact of infiltration. We will then examine the basic structure of the Occupy and analyze its strengths and weaknesses in the context of infiltration. Our hope is that this series will lead to a broader discussion within the movement so that efforts can be made to balance the strengths of Occupy with actions necessary to protect the movement from disruption and division. 

Gang bludgeon swan to death with nail-covered stick ‘to eat’ after luring it ashore with bread


  • RSPCA warn of swan-poaching crimewave in Lincoln
  • Police launch hunt for five-strong gang


PUBLISHED: 07:39 EST, 15 March 2012 | UPDATED: 09:08 EST, 15 March 201


Callous poachers coaxed a swan to shore with breadcrumbs before clubbing it to death with nail-embedded sticks and taking it away ‘to eat’, it emerged today.

The gang of five was spotted throwing morsels of bread into Brayford Pool in Lincoln’s town centre to lure the curious bird towards them on Tuesday evening.

But seconds later they unleashed a furious attack onto the majestic animal before bundling its bloodied carcass into the back of a van and speeding off into the dusk.

Concern: This was the third such attack on swans in the area in six months, sparking fears of a swan-poaching crimewaveConcern: This was the third such attack on swans in the area in six months, sparking fears of a swan-poaching crimewave

Detectives have now launched a Lincoln-wide manhunt for the men after one terrified passerby witnessed the bloodthirsty killing unfold.

This was the third such attack on swans in the area in six months, sparking fears of a swan-poaching crimewave.

Lincoln has a large population migrants from Eastern Europe, where swan is considered a delicacy in some areas, but officers have refused to speculate on the nationality of the attackers.

The RSPCA suspect the only motive for targeting the colony on Lincoln’s Roman waterway is to eat them.

And with swans well-known to mate for life, there are also growing concerns for the dead bird’s confused and lonely partner, who the RSPCA say will be pining for its missing mate.

Charlotte Childs, of the RSCPA’s Lincolnshire Mid and Lincoln division, said: ‘We have no idea why someone would do something so disgusting but the only thing we can logically think of is if the swans are being killed to be eaten.

‘It could have just been an attack for fun, there’s no way yet of knowing. Either way, it’s horrific and inhumane.’

Historic: A colony of white swans has lived on Lincoln's historic Brayford Pool for hundreds of yearsHistoric: A colony of white swans has lived on Lincoln’s historic Brayford Pool for hundreds of years

She added: ‘We’ve heard of other attacks closer to the Brayford Pool.

‘Swans mate for life so there will be another swan out there pining for its mate. Often if a swan dies its partner will stay with the body for a long time.

‘Swans make deep, emotional attachments with their mate so now there’s the welfare of the other swan to think about.

‘Everyone needs to be pro-active now in looking after our swans. They’re a daily sight in the city and synonymous with the Brayford in particular. Not only that but they’re incredibly friendly.

‘It’s up to us all now to be vigilant.’

A colony of white swans has lived on Lincoln’s historic Brayford Pool for hundreds of years. A local legend decrees that if the swans ever leave the pool Lincoln’s Norman built Cathedral, which overlooks the waterway, will fall to the ground.

Recruitment consultant, John Rawnsley, 37, said: ‘Whenever I visit Lincoln I always go down to the Brayford Pool and see the swans. It is hard to imagine the city without them.’

Lincolnshire Police are trying to trace the black van. The first four digits of the registration plate are FS06. Spokesman, James Newall, said the force was working closely with the RSPCA.


The U.S. Navy is heading to court in Georgia, where environmental groups say plans for an offshore range for military training poses threats to endangered right whales.

A U.S. District Court judge was scheduled to hear arguments in the lawsuit Thursday in Brunswick. Both sides say the case should be decided in their favor without a full trial.

Environmental groups want to stop the Navy from building a $100 million range to train submarines, airplanes and warships 75 miles offshore from Georgia and Florida.

Opponents say that’s too close to waters used by right whales each winter to give birth. Only about 400 of the rare whales remain.

The Navy says it already takes precautions to avoid harming whales and the judge should strongly consider its needs for military readiness.

Giant squid eyes are sperm whale defence

Richard BlackBy Richard BlackEnvironment correspondent, BBC News

Artwork of battle between colossal squid and sperm whale

The world’s biggest squid species have developed huge eyes to give early warning of approaching sperm whales.

Colossal and giant squid both have eyes that can measure 27cm (11in) across – much bigger than any fish.

Scientists found that huge eyes offer no advantages in the murky ocean depths other than making it easier to spot enormous shapes – such as sperm whales.

Writing in Current Biology journal, they say this could explain the equally huge eyes of fossil ichthyosaurs.

Lead scientist Dan Nilsson from Lund University in Sweden was present at the unique dissection of a colossal squid performed four years ago in New Zealand.

There, he examined and handled the eyes – in particular, the hard parts of the lens.

These alone are bigger than an entire human eye.

“Start Quote

Predation by large, toothed whales has driven the evolution of gigantism in the eyes of these squid”

Sonke JohnsenDuke University

“We were puzzled initially, because there were no other eyes in the same size range – you can find everything up to the size of an orange, which are in large swordfish,” Prof Nilsson told BBC News.

“So you find every small size, then there’s a huge gap, then there are these two species where the eye is three times as big – even though squid are not the largest animals.”

The streamlined giant squid (various species of Architeuthis) and the much chunkier colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) can both grow to more than 10m long, as measured from the tip of the body to the end of their tentacles.

The colossal squid especially is equipped with a fearsome arsenal of weapons, including barbed swivelling hooks.

Sense of proportion

Prof Nilsson with core of squid eye lensDan Nilsson saw the colossal squid’s eyes during the dissection in New Zealand in 2008

Scars on the bodies of sperm whales indicate that the two creatures regularly do battle, while colossal squid beaks found in the stomachs of sperm whales indicate that the latter often win.

Though colossal squid are encountered remarkably rarely by people, they are thought to make up about three-quarters of sperm whales’ diet in the Southern Ocean.

Whereas the whales can spot squid using sonar, the squid can deploy nothing except vision – which suggests there would be a powerful evolutionary pressure towards developing effective eyes.

Prof Nilsson’s team used mathematical models of how different sizes of eye perform at depths up to 1km.

There, moving objects are most detectable through the bioluminescence they provoke from countless tiny creatures in the water.

Squid length graphic

The models showed that in general, there is no benefit to be gained from developing eyes bigger than the swordfish’s.

The exception is a really large moving object.

Here, large eyes enable better detection of a pattern of point sources of bioluminescence – light given off by tiny organisms – in low-contrast conditions.

This would give the squid warning of a sperm whale approaching at a distance of about 120m, the researchers calculate – potentially allowing it to take evasive action and avoid being eaten.

“It’s the predation by large, toothed whales that has driven the evolution of gigantism in the eyes of these squid,” commented Soenke Johnsen, a biologist at Duke University in Durham, US, who was also part of the research team.

They speculate that eyes of the same size might have enabled ichthyosaurs, large marine reptiles that died out about 90m years ago, to avoid the fearsome jaws of the even larger pliosaurs.