To understand how to save the whales, we have to know two things first: why to save the whales and what is causing the numbers of whales to decline. The first is easier to answer: whales are not only a key part of the huge ocean system in terms of nutrient cycling and ecosystem behavior but they also represent some of the most beautiful and popular creatures on earth. Their sheer size and therefore vast complexity holds many mysteries which man has yet to discover and it would be a huge shame if they disappeared before we could fully appreciate how they live.
The second issue that needs to be understood is what is the biggest contributor to decline in the population.Although scientists know a combination of overfishing, pollution, climate change and human-created ocean noise is harming the whales, they have no idea which culprit is worse, and because of that, they’re not sure which one to prioritize as a target for expensive protection efforts.
Northern right whales have been protected since 1930, after being hunted to near extinction in the 1800s and early 1900s, and have yet to recover their populations. These whales take 10 years to sexually mature, a year to give birth and babies take months to wean so imminent protection from further decline is highly necessary as they do not bounce back easily.
In this article, the effects of sound from power plants and ships on ecosystems were assessed, yet researchers could not determine whether the sounds were affecting a few individuals or the entire population. This in turn meant that they could not determine how big of a problem sound in the ocean is. A major part of this uncertainty is the 6 year old equipment and out-of-date sampling techniques which render the scientific methods weak and inconclusive.
In order to assess what causes the biggest impact on whale population decline, better methods and equipment are required to assess each of the major stressors individually and decide which to combat first based on impact. The question is, will the Northern right whales be around long enough for any changes made as a result of this to make a difference?
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Submitted by club member:
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