Given their large size, whales have long been thought of as scary ocean mammals. While they do feed on smaller fish for survival, they are not entirely made to cause fear. In fact, whales play a significant role in keeping our ecosystem healthy and sustainable.
Importance Of Whales
First of all, whales help greatly when it comes to stabilizing the food chain by making sure that the animal species that they feed on do not overpopulate the ocean ecosystem. If the whales turn extinct and their preys balloon in number, this will result in an imbalance in the ecosystem which will lead to more sustainability problems later on.
Interestingly, even whale poop brings a lot of wonders. According to studies, certain nutrients in a sperm whale’s poop help in the proliferation of phytoplankton. The phytoplankton absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, thereby cleaning the air that we and other animals breathe. Moreover, phytoplankton is a typical food of many kinds of fish. So by pooping, whales actually help more fish live.
However, the existence of whales, as well as the sustainability that they bring about, has persistently been threatened by human activities.
Whale Hunting Practices
Commercial whaling happens when whales are being caught for sale. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has already banned all forms of commercial whaling in 1986. Before that, thousands of whales were being captured by whaling fleets every year.
200 miles north of Scotland, in the Faroe Islands, locals would hunt down large groups of pilot whales, drive them by force towards the shore, and conduct a massive killing of all these pilot whales through a blowhole hook and a spinal lance. This hunting causes the whales to lose their consciousness and die in a matter of seconds.
Unfortunately, all these are entirely legal as the Faroese do it as a matter of tradition. The meat and blubber of pilot whales are essential components of the national diet of the Faroese people for the longest time. Had they not done this massive killing, this whale meat would have to be imported from abroad. This massive killing of pilot whales happens to date.
There is also a type of whaling that happens in Japan – but it is said to be for scientific purposes. This whaling allows them to keep harvesting whales even after the moratorium by the IWC has been issued. As discussed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), scientific whaling is in effect commercial whaling in disguise because whale meat is still being sold and almost always, very little helpful scientific data is obtained.
Contrary to their scary external feature, whales need more protection than what we normally thought. For instance, both blue and southern right whales have already been tagged as endangered; while other species like humpback and fin whales are very vulnerable to extinction.
Efforts Towards Whale Conservation
Truth be told, recovery of whale species has been very slow since the IWC moratorium 32 years ago. On a positive note, there have been various efforts among national governments to conserve the world’s remaining population of whales.
In Australia, they have a whale sanctuary that includes all Commonwealth waters from three nautical miles out to the boundary of the country’s exclusive economic zone. Within that sanctuary, it is illegal to kill, injure, or even interfere with the natural activities of whales. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, they strongly support non-consumptive activities of involving whales such as whale watching, as well as humane euthanasia of beached whales which could no longer be brought back to the ocean.
As stewards of creation, both the destruction and protection of wildlife lie in our hands. We have the power to conduct activities aimed at conserving various species to ultimately help in making our ecosystem sustainable not only for us but for the future generations to come.