The ceasing industrial whaling around the 1970’s has made a huge difference to whales. Species such as Humpback whale are recovering well, yet the Blue whale remains endangered and their population growth rate is slow. Whales, and indeed, our oceans need our support and effort towards positive futures. Yet, when these animals are so huge, and so far out at sea, it can feel like we are too small and too land bound to make a difference.
Fear not! Much can be done!
Healthy Oceans Support Healthy Whales
First and foremost, we must remember that whales are at home in the expansive and fluid medium we call the ocean. They travel through it, communicate within it and rely on food derived from it. Therefore, many of the things we do day to day towards healthy oceans, to whales, make the WORLD of difference.
Gentle Tips to Conserve Whales
The Earth is a Giant Greenhouse, and it’s getting too hot due to global warming. We are all being impacted, including the reefs, fish and whales. More on this later, but for now – how to help?
- One step at a time. Plan ahead and ride your bike, walk, use public transport – these things can be good for you and the planet. The global pandemic saw a short-term reduction in emissions in 2020, though to prevent catastrophic warming, we need to consistently reduce global emissions over the next 10 years. Every step counts.
- Reduce your own waste. Make a decision and stick to it, no more disposable coffee cups, no more extra packaging. These actions reduce carbon emissions of production and remove the need to deal with the waste after a single use. Recycling and reusing are good, but refusing is even better!
- Have a compost bin and use it! Food scraps and green waste are a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic matter in landfill produces methane. Methane is potent and traps carbon in our atmosphere and increases global warming.
- Support renewables to generate energy. There are amazing innovations and technologies being introduced which will change the way we live, and move away from coal and oil which are major greenhouse gas contributors. Some countries around the globe are really leading the way.
We can also rethink what we are putting into our oceans.
- Live green and party clean! Don’t let balloons go, use biodegradable glitter, reusable containers, cups. The WA government is implementing legislation change on releasing Helium balloons into our oceans. It’s a good step towards cleaner seas.
- Clean Marine Debris any time you can. Plastics break down in our oceans, becoming smaller and smaller, though they do not disappear. They just get ingested by smaller and smaller animals. This is because they start to smell, and even look like marine food after being in the oceans. Plastic has been found in krill, birds, fish, whales. Entanglement is also a big problem for whales. Initiatives like Tangaroa Blue in Australia help you host a beach clean-up and tally up waste collected with data put towards a national data set.
- Healthy streets, healthy bodies, healthy oceans. Our drains carry rubbish from our streets, toxins and agricultural runoff and daily products into the oceans. Rainy days can deliver a lot of rubbish into waterways. A clean up on your home street, or picking up trash as you’re out for a walk may make a bigger difference than you think. And while you’re at it, have a read about endocrine disruptors and their impact on seafood communities. Silent Spring, a novel by Rachel Carson kickstarted an environmental movement to bring to light these issues our environment faces. It’s a short and worthy red.
- Get informed and be an advocate. Kindly speak to your friends and family about these issues. There are good things happening on local and government levels for our oceans. Large scale initiatives such as the Pacific Ocean Litter Project working towards positive change at an ocean wide level. Change is happening across Australian states to reduce single use waste. It’s a big deal. Read the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s recapon legislation change in Australia to ban single use plastics!
It’s an age-old statement, but it rings true for the conservation of whales…
Think Global, act Local.
- Experience ecosystems at work in a sustainable way. Whale watching allows you to see the beautiful animals we care about in the wild, whilst also putting your dollars towards industries which are set up to support ecotourism ventures and sustainability practices. Within Western Australia there are incredible ecosystems to visit, like nowhere else in the world. Think ‘the Bremer Bay killer whalesout hunting in the Southern Ocean’. Animals in the wild and out of captivity is vital.
- Buy local, handmade and natural fibres if you can. Locally made goods reduces shipping and the carbon footprint of air/boat travel. Ship strikes are a big problem for cetaceans, especially for migrating whales which move through high boat traffic areas. So, the less the better here.
Now, a little on how global warming and whales. A warming climate is occurring because within this industrial era of the Anthropocene, we are producing greenhouse gasses including carbon dioxide and methane at an unprecedented rate. This causes an additional trapping of heat within our atmosphere. The ocean is an amazing regulator of this heat, and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere helps to mitigate the effects of this global warming. But unfortunately, the consequences are a warming ocean, and ocean acidification due to the trapped carbon changing the chemical balance within our seas. These impacts can influence the favourite food of whales, krill, as well as many other species including corals and entire reef ecosystems.
A Full Circle
Amazingly, as whale populations recover, they are helping our oceans to mitigate global warming! When whales come to the surface to breathe, they also poo! Whale poo is iron rich and phytoplankton growth at the surface. These tiny single celled organisms not only convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, they are also the favourite food for animals including fish and krill, which are the preferred food of many whale species. Further, when whales die, their bodies fall to the sea floor where carbon is trapped, or utilised by microbes and animals and circulated again through our ecosystems. This beautiful circular story may be an important key in our movement towards a healthier ocean and a healthier world. Thanks whales.