News / Science & Technology

Study: Great Whale Droppings Prove Key to Ocean Health

Great Whales Rebound as Marine Engineersi
X
July 09, 2014 8:47 PM
In the heyday of commercial whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries, whales were killed by the tens of thousands. By the time an international moratorium was put in place in 1986, some populations of the giant marine mammals had declined by an estimated 66 to 90 percent. Since then, whale populations have rebounded and, as VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they are improving the ocean environment.
Rosanne Skirble

Valued for their meat and oil, whales were once considered of little consequence to the ocean.

But a new study suggests great whales -- Baleen, Sperm, Humpback, Blue and Gray -- have a powerful and positive impact on how the ocean works.

“They can increase nutrients in areas where they are feeding," said University of Vermont conservation biologist Joe Roman, lead author of the study. "So whales dive deep to feed. They come to the surface and, as it turns out, they defecate or they release whale poop at the surface. That has lots of nitrogen and other nutrients so it can increase productivity in areas where whales are feeding. ”

Study: Great Whales Have Enormous Impact on Ocean Health
Study: Great Whales Have Enormous Impact on Ocean Healthi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


Whales continue to service the ocean even when they die and sink to the deep sea. 

“That also brings nutrients down there and lots of habitats for species that depend entirely on those whale falls,” Roman said.     

After centuries of decline, great whales are steadily repopulating their historic breeding and feeding grounds. And they have a healthy appetite. Some commercial fisheries argue the whales are eating too many other fish and taking a big bite from their profits.

But experts argue opposite is true.      

“I think the classic view was ‘too many whales, not enough fish,’" Roman said. "But our study and several others are starting to show that it is far more complicated, more interesting than that, that is when whales are in a healthy ecosystem, we can have more fish and more whales at the same time.”  

When whales die, their bodies sink to the ocean floor and become habitat for many sea creatures. (Credit: Craig Smith)
When whales die, their bodies sink to the ocean floor and become habitat for many sea creatures. (Credit: Craig Smith)

Roman argues whales are being blamed for poor fishery management. 

“If we can restore our waterways, if we can better manage our fisheries, we are going to find that we will have more whales for us to enjoy as well as more fish for commercial fisheries, for recreational fisheries,” he said.

But even as whales rebound, they are not immune to human threats in the ocean. They are run over by container ships, caught in fishing nets, and disturbed by noise from ocean traffic and sonar signals.

“Shipping is increasing in the Arctic, plans for offshore oil and gas are increasing," said Margaret Williams, who directs the World Wildlife Fund's Arctic program. "And so World Wildlife Fund is working with government and communities and industry and other conservation groups to identify those areas that are very, very important for whale species, for migration areas, for feeding areas, and we’re recommending those areas receive special management attention.” 

Williams says whales deserve this protection.  They are, as the study underscores, more valuable than whalers ever imagined -- to us, to fisheries and to the ocean itself. 

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid