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If you don't know about the growing oil slick in the gulf of Mexico that's been gushing out of the river leaking from the earth's crust, then you haven't been conscious over the past week.  The threat to fisheries, beaches and so many important biological, economic and human activities is overwhelming.

And as the debate continues on whether we should allow Countries like Japan, Norway and Iceland to resume legal commercial whaling with many arguing that this would mean less dead whales via whaling shows how misguided the debate is going.

Whaling is not the only threat to the great mammals in the ocean.  It is one of many.  And now that the Gulf of Mexico is becoming one big pot of sticky oil, it's threatening another endangered species of whale, the sperm whale

The Gulf of Mexico is an important breeding and nursery ground for Sperm whales, just as the Baja area is for Grey whales as they migrate every year along the California coast down to calve in the Pacific's warm waters.  For the Blue Whale, they too have birthing grounds and areas that they favor for having their young, where the water is warm in summer and food is abundant.

But right now, not only is the nursery ground being taken over by oil, the food supply for the whales and every other creature in the area will be contaminated from the bottom of the food chain up.

Sperm whales have long had a particular attachment to the underwater canyons that extend into the Gulf of Mexico south of the Mississippi Delta.  The waters there are both deep and nutrient-rich, and for the Gulf’s small sperm whale population they constitute a sort of nursery, inhabited by groups of breeding females and calves and immature males.  Yankee whalers liked to hunt this area more than a hundred years ago, and in 2002, when biologists sought out the Gulf’s sperm whales as part of a government-industry study, this is where they came.


But that of course is only the beginning.  Once oil gets into the sediment along the beaches, it will work up the food chain through zooplankton, invertebrates, and fish.  In Prince William Sound – ground zero for the Exxon Valdez spill – chronic oil exposure has been worst among species like sea otters that feed on bottom-dwelling invertebrates and along the shore.  In the Gulf, it is again perhaps those small populations of coastal bottlenose dolphins that stand at greatest risk.

And what of the sperm whale mothers and calves off the Mississippi Delta?  They’re already suffering the loss of a substantial part of their habitat due to the enormous size of the spill, and, like virtually everything else that lives in the area, they’ll go on consuming contaminated prey long after the oil is dispersed.  And this is on top of the booming of the industry’s exploratory airguns, which may seriously be impacting their ability to feed.

Natural Resource Defense Fund

So more threats to Whales and Dolphins.  More threats to our oceans because we refuse to:

  1. Stand up to the few whaling nations that refuse to stop their illegal annual hunts.
  1. Stand up to the oil companies and the politicians that take their money and support the continued dependence on oil by the subsidies we give to consumers to keep prices low not taking into account the costs to our environment in the form of pollution and eventual impacts like this river of oil.  This accident will be felt for generations to come.

The reality is this, when it comes to climate change and to pure economic value, whales are worth more to use alive than dead.  That's the bottom line.  

In 2008, 13 million people participated in whale watching in 119 countries and territories, generating total revenues of $2.1 billion. Whale watching revenues have doubled in just over a decade.

Up and down the coasts of Australia, and around the world, hundreds of thousands of people travel to see firsthand these great sea creatures. And this number is growing.

It is estimated that 3300 operators offer whale watching trips around the world, employing an estimated 13,200 people.


We must fight to save these animals who are worth so much more alive than dead, for so many reasons.  These wise, intelligent and social creatures deserve so much more and we've failed them on so many levels.  Failed to protect them from our greed, hubris and our folly.

Learn more about these creatures via an amazing documentary from PBS, Fellowship of the Whales.

In Hawaii, where new land is born as volcanic rock, another birth takes place. A baby humpback enters the world and joins the 3,000 or more whales that congregate in the warm waters off Hawaii each winter to mate and give birth. This is the story of her first year of life. Over twelve months she will learn many skills from her mother, and eventually they will make the several-thousand-mile journey together to Alaska’s southeast coast.

Humpbacks travel between Hawaii and Alaska every year, guided by their internal compass. The krill-rich waters of Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago are the whales’ summer feeding grounds, an environment very different from the calving grounds they have left behind in Hawaii. Here, more than the water temperature changes, the behavior of the whales changes, as well. While fiercely competitive in the breeding season in Hawaii, fighting for mates and protecting young, the opposite is true in Alaska. Whales cooperate, working in teams to gather food in the most efficient way possible. When the summer ends and the food is gone, mother and baby will head back to Hawaii again.

The young humpback calf has only a year to learn the subtleties of whale society before she is left by her mother to continue her education on her own, learning from observation and experience. It’s an incredible journey between two strikingly different environments that reveals the true complexity of the fellowship of the whales.

And don't forget the manatee :)

Known as a "sea cow," the endangered West Indian manatee migrates along the Gulf Coast in search of warm water. Eating sea grass and other plants it finds in the shallows, the mammal may find its food sources contaminated when oil reaches the shoreline.

600-Plus Species at Risk From Deadly Gulf Oil Spill

Just think about it, one oil rig, 600 species and years of effects for what?

It's not just about saving the whales, but I wanted to illustrate that whaling is the least of the whales concerns and that many of the species we, as environmentalists want to protect, face so many threats.  And most of those threats are mainly anthropogenic, man made.  We can do something.

Originally posted to Ellinorianne on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:01 PM PDT.

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