I dreamed about whales last night, so that’s the subject of today’s post. The rarest type of whale is the Right Whale, so named because in the days of the whaling industry, people thought they where the “right” ones to hunt. This was because they swam close to shore, were very valuable, and when killed, their bodies floated, making them easy to harvest.
This exploitation in the 19th and early 20th century, lead to the Right Whales population dropping from ten’s of thousands, to about 100 individuals. This shocking decrease lead to a whole host of conservation efforts beginning in 1935 and continuing since.
Today, the population is estimated to be between 300 and 350. This is of course still incredibly low, and scientists are not even sure that it’s on the rise. Extinction is a very real and possible threat to this quirky marine beast.
So why is it so threatened?
Research shows it could be it’s unusually high buoyancy that isn’t doing it any favours. Most marine creatures have negative buoyancy, which means they won’t sink, but are still able to move downwards with ease. Right Whales on the other hand, have positive buoyancy. This offers an explanation as to why past hunters saw so much of them, and why their bodies float. This easy floating might sound like a good thing, seeing as they are air-breathing mammals, but it actually puts them in a lot of danger. Many Right Whales are killed by collisions with ships, and this is partly because they can’t dive quickly or strongly enough to get out of the way.
Now that this has been noted, conservationists are able to divert human vessels away from areas where Right Whales are congregating. This should significantly reduce their mortality rate, but it does not tackle the other problem of them getting caught up in fishing gear.
The International Whaling Commission made commercial whaling illegal in 1986, and Right Whales can now be considered the “right” ones to watch instead, for the same reason they where once killed – their high visibility to the human eye. Hermanus, in South Africa, is one of the world centres for whale watching. The Right Whales come right up to the shore and can be seen from the seaside hotels. They even employ a “whale crier” to walk around shouting about where they can be observed at that very moment. And in Brazil, a conservation area has been assigned where there is most breeding activity and an old whaling station has now been converted into a museum to celebrate the wonderful water giant.
Here’s to their continuing good health and fertility. ~
Pictures from Google Images.