Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

January 14, 08 -- This and that stuff, weekly-like

YOU SAY TOMATO, I SAY INTERCOASTAL: It’s affectionately known as the ICW, that insider water route from Jersey to Florida – with a million and one bayside stops in-between.

While more than a few mariners know their sections of the ICW like the backs of their hands, it’s a whole other thing for them to take the long way to the ICW, as in speaking aloud what those three letters actually stand for.

Truth be told, I’d always been told it meant the Intercoastal Waterway. The problem is not only does my spell check refuse to accept the world intercoastal – it instead offers some obscure totally un-navigable mathematical term as a replacement -- but most major mapmakers, encyclopedias and the likes of the Army Corps of Engineers also shun that seemingly likely choice of nomenclature for a channel that is, well, both inter and coastal.

On the “tra” side of things, the know-it-all Wikepedia reads, “The Intracoastal Waterway is a 4,800-km (3,000-mile) recreational and commercial waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Some lengths consist of natural inlets, salt-water rivers, bays, and sounds; others are man-made canals.

“The waterway runs the length of the Eastern Seaboard (Maine to Miami, Florida), from its unofficial northern terminus at the Manasquan River in New Jersey, where it connects with the Atlantic Ocean at the Manasquan Inlet, to Brownsville, Texas …”

On the other hand, Reed’s Nautical Almanac purports, “The Intercoastal Waterway, or ICW, is a toll-free channel—part canal, part natural waterway—that stretches for more than 1,000 statute miles from Norfolk, Virginia to Miami, Florida.”

Even allowing for local colloquial quirks in pronunciation, I have to admit that the bayside channel that runs along the Eastern Seaboard is most likely, i.e. correctly, defined as the Intracoastal Waterway. Not that my spell check likes that word any better. Of course, my spell check is from, like, Oklahoma or some state like that.

However, if you send an email and it reads “intercoastal” I won’t ridicule you in the public eye – any more than I’m going to routinely ridicule you, that is.

WHALE OF A MYSTERY: While I’ve had no formal forensic detective training, I’ve watched enough Tru-TV, formerly Court TV, to ace even the most demanding final exams on forensic science. That’s why I was among the first to openly suggest something was weird about the dead True’s beaked whale that washed up on the beach just south of the Holyoke Avenue jetty during the holidays.

My first clue: The 16-foot marine mammal looked healthy as all get-out, short of being decidedly deceased. That fine creature should have been out there joyfully swimming around near the continental shelf as it returned from a seasonal jaunt to waters north of its usual range.

Actually, I was given a bit of a lecture on the True’s range and apparently there are, in the Atlantic, a couple biomasses, one that is common to Nova Scotia and another that resides from North Carolina southward.

Bob Schoelkopf was immediately suspicious. He arranged for the rare whale to be driven to the University of Pennsylvania for an autopsy. No cause of death could be found and parts of the whale have been sent to the Smithsonian and the Navy.

Well, the cause of death had become something of a baffler. And that’s not a good thing, in the same way that a seemingly healthy person suddenly passing with no outward or in

As you may have read, there is the question of submarine sonar being the culprit, specifically the Navy's experimental Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS), which has been shown to cause catastrophic neurological damage to whales, in particular deep-diving whales like the True’s. There have a been a couple television specials on the danger modern sonar presents to certain marine creatures. Of course, the military, in typical exclusivity, not only denies any such impacts but essentially doesn;t want to tlak about it, using national security as an out. The closest the Navy has come to even acknowledging its newest sonar may have been impacted in whale standings came in the wake of a catastrophic die-off of True’s whales near the Bahamas in 2006. near irrefutable scientific evidence , despite scientific evidence that 16 whales, including True’s beaked whales, likely died from sonar-related injuries. Per a website called lowfrequencyactiveradar.net The interim report finds that the March 2000 stranding of 16 whales and a dolphin on Bahamian beaches was caused "by the unusual combination of several contributory factors acting together."

Interestingly, Schoelkopf told me that the cause of the Bahamian die-off might have gone unexplained if an expert on marine mammals hadn’t been vacationing there just as the event took place. That doctor did in-the-field autopsies, finding dramatic evidence of catastrophic damage to the central nervous systems of the animals.

The Navy and NMFS concluded that the presence of the whales in a restrictive ocean channel, during calm water conditions which reflect and amplify sounds, caused the Navy's sonar to damage the whale's ears, leading them to beach themselves.

The always-aggressive Natural Resource Defense Council has no doubt the sound waves cripple whales. In a recent release, it referenced a study confirming its fears.

“According to a report by the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission, one of the world's leading bodies of whale biologists, the evidence linking sonar to a series of whale strandings in recent years is ‘very convincing and appears overwhelming.’ Despite the broad scientific consensus that military active sonar kills whales, the use of this deadly sonar in the world's oceans is spreading.”

Despite all this low-frequency hubbub, I’m guessing the Holyoke jetty whale was not a victim of sonar. My only rationale stems from the fact the sonar-related Bahamian whale deaths were apparently fairly obvious upon autopsy. The fact that the university found no apparent cause of death.

Sidebar: Though the autopsy showed the Holyoke whale had an empty stomach, I do not think that is as indicative as it might sound. Firstly, both Schoelkopf and myself noticed some signs of discharge that indicated the animal had eaten fairly recently. What’s more, in a traumatic situation as this whale was undoubtedly experiencing, regurgitation is a common bodily response, as is voiding of fecal matter. The body fat on this creature spoke of good times, until then.

However, psychological problems lead to a slow wasting away brought on by starvation.

I will say it’s mighty impressive how much effort is going into ascertaining what killed this whale. It not only shows a due respect to these amazing creatures but it reflects the huge conscientiousness of whales in this country.

As a sidebar to my daily fishing/nature blogsite (http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/), I couldn’t help but sardonically reflect on the value of this creature in purely fiscal terms. To take a swipe at the Japanese whale fishing efforts, I wrote,

On a bizarre but appropriate note, that 2,000-pound creature would be worth a small mint on the sushi market – many hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seems the Japanese are particularly drawn to the rarest whales to try out, taste-wise. This rarity would have likely brought $10 for three tiny piece of meat (less than an ounce) on sushi rice.

NO (!), I’m not a proponent of such epicurean idiocy. In fact, the latest whaling effort by Japan fishermen is despicable and essentially screams, “Screw you!” to the realm of world conservation of diminishing populations of marine mammals.”

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