News / Americas

Climate Change May Have Confused, Trapped Killer Whales

Clock Ticking to Free Trapped Killer Whales in Canadai
X
January 10, 2013 6:54 PM
A northern Canada community is seeking help in freeing about a dozen killer whales - or Orcas - trapped under a vast stretch of sea ice in the eastern Hudson Bay.

A pod of killer whales in Canada's Hudson Bay captivated the world's attention after this video circulated on social media.

A pod of killer whales trapped in the ice of Canada’s Hudson Bay successfully has left the small opening where they were gasping for breath, but marine specialists say global warming could cause more incidents like this.

Lyne Morissette, a marine researcher with the St. Lawrence Global Observatory in Quebec, said the 12 orcas may simply have gotten lost while hunting for seals and other food, but it’s more likely they got stuck in the ice because of climate change.

“They tend to base their migration on temperature, but based on the fact that temperature is changing in the Arctic, and the water is warmer, maybe they didn’t get the signal,” she said.

The mammals’ plight captivated the world after video taken by Inuit residents of the the Inukjuak community circulated on television and social media, showing the killer whales taking turns bobbing above the Bay’s icy waters.

Thousands of supporters offered money and equipment to free the whales, and news of their escape Thursday - two days after they were spotted - spurred celebrations online. But unlike in the movies about whale rescues, this story doesn’t have a soaring soundtrack or happy ending.

“They are probably close to 1,000 kilometers south of where they should be. So they still have ice to struggle with to really be at the safe place,” Morissette said. “It’s not the end of the story, because they have to get out of the Hudson Bay.”

Global warming?

The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with temperatures rising about two degrees centigrade since 1950, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado.

“The warming temperatures are making highly unpredictable the pattern of ice formation,” said Peter Ewins of the World Wildlife Fund Canada. “What used to be much more predictable and routine is now unpredictable, and that’s what leads to these great uncertainties and risks.”

Ewins pointed to both the whales getting stuck, and a separate incident this week in which a rescue helicopter broke through the ice in another area of the Hudson Bay.

“The lessons you’ve learned, whether you’re wildlife or human, don’t apply. You’ve got a radically different, changing system. Those tools and experiences are actually not relevant anymore,” he said.

Ted Scambos, a lead scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, agreed the Arctic is changing and said greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are a major cause of this warming.

But he said he doubts this week’s events are directly linked to global warming or changes in the sea ice, which has declined in extent by three percent per decade for the last few decades in winter. In summer, that rate is more like 13 percent.

“I think winds and ice conspired to corral and then constrict this pod of killer whales and then the winds shifted before people had to take action and allowed the killer whales to get out,” Scambos said.

“That sort of stuff must have happened over and over again in history,” he said. “And some whales were lucky and some whales weren’t.”

Survival of the fittest

Whether it was global warming or shifting winds and tides that trapped the orcas, both Scambos and Ewins agreed the mammals are facing a basic test of the survival of the fittest.

While the pod that got trapped may be a weaker link, it is showing signs of remarkable intelligence, Morissette said.

“It’s amazing to see how they managed to find a strategy to share that little space and organize who’s going to breathe and when, because they all needed to breathe every five minutes and they found the strategy for the survival of the group and not the survival of the strongest.”

Morissette said the orcas may try to figure out a way to spend the winter in the Bay if they can find enough breaks in the ice to keep breathing. The greatest threat they’re facing, she noted, is exhaustion or drowning.

Ewins said man could help by pumping bubbles into the water, creating an open area. But, using a medical analogy, he said that would be like putting a Band-Aid on the bigger problem of climate change.

”The best, most effective longterm thing to do is to stop the person from having the accident or getting into the hospital in the first place,” he said. “That’s analogous to weaning ourselves off fossil fuels while we still have a chance, so our kids don’t have to deal with these things in an expensive or tragic way.”

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dan Cummings from: Canada
January 12, 2013 12:29 AM
The Global Warming nuts blame EVERYTHING on Global Warming. So let's look at the facts. The temperature was -25C (water freezes at 0C) which is normal there in the middle of winter. The whales were trapped in ice, which does happen. Tides shifted the ice and the whales were able to escape. This happens. They are very smart. It has nothing to do with Global Warming. It's normal cold there right now.

In Response

by: Ron Clark from: USA
January 13, 2013 2:44 PM
Normally, I never read anything that says "may" in it from these "science types", This is propaganda and there will be a constant barrage of it, as that is how governments "brain wash" weak minded people.


by: Raifon from: Campbell River
January 11, 2013 10:12 PM
If gobal warming were true the whales shoud have been swimming and feeding in a hot tub enviroment not the frozen ice field they found themselves in. You can't spin this enviro crap seven ways of sunday and expect to be taken seriously !

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Peru's Congress Fails to Ratify Humala's New Cabinet

Key conservative allies withheld their votes, failure underscores president's waning political power as economy slows
More

US Judge Calls Argentina Debt-Swap Plan 'Illegal'

But, Judge Thomas Griesa stopped short of holding country in contempt, saying that would not help resolve dispute that led to nation's second default in a dozen years
More

Brazil Presidential Race Gets One More Candidate

Environmentalist Marina Silva to join contest for Socialist Party candidate; vote to be held October 5
More

Guatemalan General Killed in Copter Crash Near Mexico Border

General Rudy Ortiz was among five people killed; cause under investigation; weather said to have been possible factor
More

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month
More

Pope's Relatives Killed in Argentina Car Crash

Family of pontiff's nephew killed after car plows into truck
More