Although 1998 was the Year of the Ocean, news from the deep - and the shallows - is not good. Over-fishing remains rampant, pollutants continue to be dumped in the seas, and coral reefs that are markers of marine health are dying.
The last is partly because this year has been the hottest recorded. Sea temperatures have risen up to 2.4 degrees higher than normal. Coral reefs in the Indian Ocean have sustained the most damage, though those in the Red Sea, the Gulf, the Caribbean and - closer to home - the Great Barrier Reef have all suffered severely.
Whangarei, New Zealand, Dec 30
A dolphin needed the services of a surf lifesaving club's inflatable boat yesterday when it stranded at the Waipu River mouth in Northland and had to be taken by boat out to sea.
Department of Conservation (DOC) officer Glen Coulston said the young 1.5-metre common dolphin had stranded on the incoming tide at the entrance of the river at about 6am.
He said the dolphin's life had been saved by the quick-thinking of a passerby who rang DOC, as well as several members of the public.
Whales in no hurry to head south.
Gray whales that should typically be making their way south to Mexico from the Bering Sea by now are instead remaining in northern waters, leading scientists to speculate that warmer ocean temperatures may be playing a role.
The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports that a pod of more than a hundred whales were spotted near Kodiak's east coast by Audubon Society bird watchers who were making their annual Christmas count last weekend.
STRANDED WHALES BELIEVED TO HAVE LEFT
Nelson, New Zealand Jan 1 - A pod of stranded pilot whales rescued yesterday near Farewell Spit has swum into deeper water, much to the relief of Department of Conservation (DOC) staff.
The whales, 20 survivors of a pod of 28 which beached on Wednesday 8km from the base of the spit, were refloated yesterday morning on the high tide.
THINGS LOOKING UP FOR STRANDED WHALES
Wellington, New Zealand Dec 31 - The 18 surviving pilot whales from yesterday's stranding at Farewell Spit were swimming strongly in Golden Bay, the Department of Conservation (DOC) said this afternoon.
Around midday yesterday 28 long-finned pilot whales stranded on the spit, at the top of the west coast of the South Island, and five died.
Melbourne, Dec 27
Six pilot whales had beached on King Island in Bass Strait, Tasmanian police said today.
A police officer and veterinary surgeon were on hand to assess their plight, Sergeant Geoff Fletcher said.
Director of Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Max Kitchell said a rescue bid may be mounted later in the day.
"We have greater success in getting pilot whales back out to sea than sperm whales," Mr Kitchell said. "Pilot whales were smaller, although they could still weigh up to seven tonnes," he said.
12/25/98 MOSCOW (AP) Radioactive waste dumped by the Soviet Union in Arctic seas is leaking through its containers, causing radiation levels to reach up to 100 times normal in some areas, officials said Friday.
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said radiation levels in waters off the Novaya Zemlya archipelago exceed the norm dozens of times, and in the nearby Stepovoi Gulf by 100 times, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
Radiation levels in the Barents Sea are also above normal, the ministry said.
SEATTLE, Washington, January 2, 1999 (ENS) Unusual ocean and atmospheric conditions in the Bering Sea during the summers of 1997 and 1998 gave rise to extensive die-offs of seabirds, rare algal blooms, and unanticipated low salmon runs. Scientists observed warmer than usual ocean temperatures, plus altered ocean currents and atmospheric conditions in the sea that separates Alaska from the Russian Far East.
Stormy Weather Continues
The past week has been has been consumed by stormy weather, as the island has had three storms with winds over 100 mph. The Keiko staff is becoming accustomed to working in high winds, and ensuring that the bay pen remains in good condition despite the storms. A complete survey of the anchor system yesterday demonstrated that the maintenance performed on the anchors over the past ten days allowed the bay pen to ride out the storms with no problems.