Sunday, January 31, 2010
Wicked Local photo by Barry Donahue
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
By Stefanie Geisler, Globe Staff
A plan unveiled today will bring plenty of new life to the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy – marine life, that is.
The New England Aquarium has announced it will lease and retrofit a 23,000 square-foot red-brick building on the property, turning it into the new headquarters of its Marine Animal Rescue Team. The building will also act as an off-site holding facility for exhibit animals.
Construction will be completed in phases over the next several years, with the first phase expected to finish in July. The rescue team plans to move into the building by November.
“The principal thing is that this new facility will give our biologists much, much greater flexibility to do their jobs,” said Tony LaCasse, aquarium spokesman. “It will also enhance our ability to bring in new exhibits.”
When animals are collected, they must be quarantined for 30 days before they can be placed in the aquarium's public tanks. This prevents the spread of illness and parasites, LaCasse said. The extra space will ensure that process is possible.
The aquarium is leasing the property from owner Jay Cashman, who is leading efforts to redevelop the Quincy Shipyard.
The new space will also be used to rehabilitate stranded, injured, and diseased marine animals found along the coasts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The team typically treats whales, dolphins, seals, and, perhaps most notably, sea turtles.
Anywhere from 25 to 150 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are found stranded each fall on Cape Cod beaches, LaCasse said. It is the most endangered marine turtle in the world.
During the summer, young Kemp’s Ridley turtles can be found on the south side of the Cape, feeding on crabs. LaCasse said they are probably then pulled north by a current that dumps them into Cape Cod Bay.
“Cape Cod Bay creates a big bucket,” LaCasse said. “They have to swim 25 miles north before they can start swimming south, and that’s very counterintuitive.”
As water temperatures drop, the turtles develop hypothermia. If the turtles get lucky, waves carry them onto beaches, where they are collected by volunteers and transported to the aquarium, where they get medical treatment that can take up to six months.
Since the early 1990s, the rescue team has rehabilitated over 500 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. The aquarium plans to make the new facility the center for this work.
“It’s an opportunity for us to help in the turnaround of a critically endangered species,” LaCasse said.
Although the new facility will not be open to the public, it may host open houses and field trips for local schools.
The building to be converted for the aquarium once was the hub of an important process in the manufacturing of oceangoing vessels. Hundreds of people worked there, fitting pipes with insulation that were later installed in the hulls of ships, Globe South reported Sunday.
Friday, January 22, 2010
WAREHAM - Malcolm (“Mack”) and Cathy Phinney and Peter and Heather Zine, West Wareham neighbors, donated conservation restrictions on nine acres of their abutting land to the Wareham Land Trust. In a binding legal document called a conservation restriction, the donors have agreed to limit future development of their land, and the Wareham Land Trust has assumed responsibility to ensure that the terms of the agreement are followed.
Patterson’s Brook runs along the property, providing a rare habitat in Wareham: a cold water habitat for brook trout.
Downstream from the property is the historic trout hatchery, once fed by the cool waters of this tributary to the Weweantic River. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has designated Patterson’s Brook as a cold water fisheries resource after conducting a survey and finding brook trout in the stream.
Brook trout, the only species of trout native to much of the eastern United States, require cool temperatures and clean water to survive. A once abundant resource, their populations are declining due to development, stream fragmentation and alteration of water flows.
“Brook trout are indicators of the health of the watersheds they live in. A decline is an early warning of an aquatic system at risk,” Heidi Blythe, land protection specialist for the Wareham Land Trust, said. “Their presence on the Phinney and Zine conservation lands is a significant natural resource, one of the primary reasons for the protection of this land.”
“The permanent protection of our land has been a long time goal,” Cathy Phinney, a nurse at Tobey Hospital, said. Her husband, Mack, is a retired science teacher and volunteers for several conservation organizations. His primary interest is protecting rivers and streams.
“Land surrounding small streams is a critical buffer,” he said. “Without the forested land along streams, the temperature of the water would increase, as would erosion rates and possible alterations of the water. Any of these could destroy this rare habitat.”
In addition to the rare cold water stream, the Phinney and Zine properties contain a certified vernal pool, habitat for fairy shrimp, wood frogs and spotted salamanders. Eastern box turtles, listed as a “species of special concern” by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, also find refuge on the land.
In addition to rare species habitat, the program has identified the Phinney and Zine land as a “Riverine Priority Vegetation Community,” one of eight natural systems most critical to biological diversity.
The land also protects drinking water by providing a recharge area for Wareham’s sole source aquifer, as rainwater filters through the mossy ground of the forest and wetlands.
The conservation restrictions are located in West Wareham, where recent residential and commercial developments are changing the look of the once rural area.
“I want future generations of children to know what this area used to look like,” Mack Phinney said.
For Peter and Heather Zine, the reason to protect their land is personal.
“We want our daughter, Hannah, to grow up seeing the beauty of the natural forest and brook. It was an easy decision to permanently protect this for future generations to enjoy.”
“We are grateful to the Phinney and Zine families for protecting this truly rare cold water resource,” Mary McFadden, founder of the Wareham Land Trust, said. “We hope others will be inspired by this generous donation so we can protect a longer corridor along Patterson’s Brook and our other rivers and streams.”
The Wareham Land Trust is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the diverse lands and natural resources of Wareham. For more information about land protection options and about the organization, call 508-295-0211 or visit www.warehamland.org.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
WELLFLEET — The Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary has tallied up the numbers for this year's turtle stranding season and the total is the third largest since the facility started keeping records.
Of the 192 turtles recovered from Cape beaches, there were 178 Kemp's ridleys, eight green turtles, four loggerheads, and two unidentified specimens. This year's stranding total was surpassed in 1999, when there were 278 stranded turtles, and 2002, when there were 201.
Some sea turtles become stunned by the cold when fall arrives, bringing chilly waters and air temperatures. With their metabolism slowing down, the turtles can't escape and eventually float to shore, where they either freeze to death or are rescued. All of the turtle species affected in this year's stranding season are considered threatened, with the Kemp's ridley turtles among the most endangered in the world.
Cold-stunned sea turtles are usually rescued by beach patrols manned by Mass Audubon staffers and volunteers. They are taken to the New England Aquarium in Boston for rehabilitation if they are still alive.
The stranding season ends when ocean temperatures drop to the point where any remaining turtles die. Water temperatures were between 35 and 42 degrees this week — far too cold for the marine reptiles.
Copyright © Cape Cod Media Group, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Some being found along South Shore
By Constance Lindner, Globe Correspondent | January 3, 2010
WEYMOUTH - Several specimens of an endangered sea turtle have been found on the South Shore, creating a bit of a mystery for members of the New England Aquarium staff.
Aquarium officials say that finding the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle in this area may be unprecedented. The latest find, the carcass of one of the turtles, was made in Weymouth last week, following the finding of two others in Hull and Quincy.
“When you get three of anything, you start paying attention,’’ said aquarium spokesman Tony Lacasse.
Biologists say that each year, juvenile Kemp’s Ridley turtles make their way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Cape Cod area, where they feed on crabs before returning south around Labor Day. There are always some who linger and, as the temperature drops, become cold-stunned, or hypothermic, floating on the waves at the mercy of wind and current.
This has been a big year for the sheer number of Kemp’s Ridley turtles, said Lacasse, who conjectured that it might be because the start of fall was mild and lulled the turtles into staying when it was time to go.
Another possible reason is that a local current deposited the turtles in Cape Cod Bay in late summer, leaving them a window of only a few weeks to figure out how to get out of there. If the turtles have not started south by mid-October, their ability to swim is reduced. By November, when temperatures drop to 50 degrees and lower, they are in real trouble.
Lacasse said he wondered whether the turtles that found their way to the South Shore might have originally been situated near the top of Cape Cod Bay and were blown into Boston Harbor before eventually drifting to the South Shore.
Stragglers luckier than the ones found in Hull, Quincy, and Weymouth were discovered close to the Cape after Thanksgiving. A total of 77 were rescued and taken to the aquarium by staff and volunteers at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary of the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
Most of them are now recuperating under care of biologists at the aquarium, who have been slowly restoring their body temperature and giving them antibiotics, so that pathogens that have been dormant in the hypothermic state do not have a chance to quickly multiply.
The ones that were not rescued were probably caught up in currents that took them further out to sea or swept them inland, where they landed on shore and could not withstand the cold temperatures, one of the possible scenarios for what might have happened with the specimens found recently.
A necropsy should reveal more clues.
“It’s a puzzle, a genuine puzzle,’’ Lacasse said.
Constance Lindner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.