There are currently over 70 different types of whale species in the world’s oceans – dozens of whale species that are just as beautiful as the next. They can be found all over the world, too. From the icy waters of the Arctic to the tropical waters of the equator, whales migrate, hunt, and reproduce almost everywhere. There are so many different locales and opportunities to view these creatures up close, in person, and in the wild – including whale watching tours.
However, over time, there has been a decline in whale populations. In fact, there are a few whale species that are currently on endangered lists. Reasons why whales are endangered vary, for there are several threats, both natural and unnatural, that affect their lifespans and ability to survive and reproduce. Regardless, it’s our responsibility to protect these animals and make sure that they continue to thrive – not just because they’re beautiful, but because they play an important role in the environment. To further prepare ourselves as proponents of proactive change, we’ve posed several questions: why are whales endangered, why are whales important, and how can we save the whales.
As previously mentioned, there are multiple whale species currently endangered or vulnerable, including the blue whale and the southern right whale. So, the question becomes, “why are whales endangered?”
Again, there is a multitude of factors that contribute to the decrease in whale populations. For one, there’s commercial whaling. Although there has been a decline in whaling since the 20th century, commercial whaling still poses a problem today. Currently, approximately 1,000 whales are killed each year by commercial whaling. These whales are usually hunted for their materials, such as blubber and oil, to make clothing, products, and food. Commercial whaling can also be extremely competitive, increasing the threat level for these animals even more.
Additionally, another contributing factor to why whales are endangered is pollution, particularly chemical pollution. Oil spills and trash are especially to blame, as they are toxic to not only whales but all sea life. Another form of pollution affecting whales is noise pollution. Noise pollution is harmful because it affects whales’ ability to effectively use echolocation, which is the whales’ way of hearing and determining location.
Overfishing and habitat loss have also been found as large proponents to the deaths of many whales. Overfishing is dangerous, as it limits the supply of prey for whales, ultimately affecting their ability to survive and reproduce. And because of climate change and increased temperatures, whales’ habitats and prey are affected as well.
If you haven’t guessed it already, whales are extremely important. Why are whales important? Well, for one, whales play a significant role in the environment. Whales actually fight climate change themselves, capturing and maintaining large amounts of carbon in the atmosphere. This creates a cleaner, more breathable air for everyone, including you and me. Interestingly enough, their poop also plays a similar role. Whale poop helps plankton in the ocean grow; in turn, plankton helps capture carbon in the atmosphere as well. It’s a win-win! Additionally, whales also provide a balance to the ocean’s ecosystem, regulating food supply and keeping a check on the overpopulation of prey.
You may be surprised to hear, but whales are also very important to the economy of developing countries – all because of whale watching. Whale watching brings millions, even billions, of dollars into these economies, which can then be reinvested to help with building necessary infrastructure as well as ensuring the protection of these whales. Plus, whale watching provides the opportunity to educate individuals on the importance and beauty of whales, increasing the advocacy for protection and legal regulation.
Although it may seem like there isn’t anything you can do to help bring about change, there is! With enough support, these individual, small initiatives can create a large impact – an impact that can certainly save all whale species. Here is a short, actionable list of how we can save the whales:
If you’d like to see your favorite whale species up close and personal, visit Harbor Breeze. Our whale watching tours in Long Beach and Los Angeles give visitors the once-in-a-lifetime experience to embark on a sea adventure, giving you the opportunity to see whales, dolphins, and other magnificent cetaceans! Visit our website to learn more and to book a tour today!