In 1986, a ban was placed on commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). This is the organization responsible for regulating the whaling Industry and also protecting the species of whales. There are over 70 members of this organization who adhere to the rules make by IWC in order to ensure that whales remain protected.
Whales are mammals. There are two types of whales: Baleen and Toothed. Despite all the efforts by IWC and other organizations, many whale species still remain endangered or vulnerable. The main reasons for this are:
Persistence of Commercial Whaling
Despite a ban on the commercial whaling, over a thousand whales are killed each year for the commercial market. These massive beautiful animals are killed by exploding harpoons and chased through the oceans as they die.
Oil and Gas Development causes Danger to Whales
There are only 130 western North Pacific whales left in the world. The main reason being that their feeding ground is being developed for oil and gas operations off Sakhalin Island, Russian Federation.
Ship Strikes and Net Entanglements
North Atlantic right whales are one of the earth's rarest mammals. Collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing nets continue to drive these whales to the brink of extinction.
The rise of sea level and the change in sea water temperature is bound to adversely affect them. It is unclear as to how quickly these massive marine animals will adapt to these changes. Also, global warming may affect the krill population, the major food source for whales.
Underwater Sonar Testing and Noise Pollution
Underwater sonar testing results in a large number of whales being stranded on the beaches. The low frequency active sonar used by the military to detect the presence of submarines causes whale beaching. Not only this but loud sounds of ships, acoustic smog, confuses whales and make it harder for them to communicate with each other. Off shore drilling also creates noise pollution.
Oils spills, such as the one that occurred on 20th April 2010, are dangerous for all marine animals, including whales. Whales have to come to the surface for air and hence, oil spills are a particular threat to them. They may inhale the toxic crude or the oil fumes. It can also contaminate their prey and thus in turn taint their own bodies.
What can you do to help this cause?
As an ordinary consumer, you can do a lot to help the cause of endangered whales and even other endangered animals.
- Do not release balloons in the air as they can travel thousands of miles and end up in the oceans. Whales and dolphins can eat it by mistake and die.
- Be an informed consumer. If you are living in a country where commercial whaling is still continued, be an active worker against it. Do not use any product that contains whale ingredients.
- Do not litter the beaches as that garbage goes directly into the oceans.
- Protect the oceans. Urban runoff, storm water pollution, is one of the main causes of water pollution. Home use items such as motor oil, antifreeze, detergents etc are swept through storm drains and into rivers, finding their way into the oceans. Plastic bags are sometimes eaten by marine animals. This can make them sick due to the resin or chemicals that are found in the plastic. Also by ingesting plastic they may feel full and starve themselves to death. Water pollution hurts all marine animals, including whales.
- Buy locally. Reduce the use of imported products or products that contain imported ingredients. All imported products are transported via ships, creating noise pollution in the oceans. Moreover, ships discharge their garbage into the oceans on a regular basis.
- Lobby for protection of oceans and marine lives. Donate, if you can. Write letters to your political leaders to make this issue heard. Lobby hard against ocean exploitation for oil.
- Learn about environment protection and other endangered species such as tigers, wolves, African lions and woolly spider monkeys. Join an organization such as CARE2 where you can simply click every day and let the sponsors contribute towards your favorite cause on your behalf.
- Adopt a whale through Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society program where you can join the Whale Adoption Program and play an active part in saving these wonderful animals.