Even the mightiest needs protection
World Whale Day is observed on the third Sunday in February each year. In 2022 it is on 20 February. World Whale Day began in Maui, Hawaii. It is a day to contemplate the challenges and problems life faces in the oceans. This day is specific to know about whales, their lives, how they live and the issues they face. Greg Kauffman, a researcher and the Founder of the Pacific Whale Foundation, introduced this day to bring attention to the threat of the very existence of the whales. Initially, the focus was about humpback whales, now extended to discuss the challenges faced by all the ocean species.
Even though Whales can be scary, there is an aura about them. One can find a mention of whales in sacred texts like the Quran and the Bible. Not much is known about the way whales live. The giant creatures of the sea have been hunted for ages and have reached a near extinction stage. Humans knew very little about whales, as they reside in the depths of the oceans. Whales are not fish, they breathe air and are warm-blooded mammals. Whales are classified into two types, Baleen whales and toothed whales. Baleen whales have baleen plates in their mouths, and they filter plankton and krill with them. Toothed whales have teeth and use those teeth for hunting their food. Blue Whale, Humpback whale, belong to Baleen whale category, Sperm whale belongs to the toothed whale. The world’s most giant whale is the blue whale. It can reach 98 feet in length and weigh almost one tonne. Blue whales have an average lifespan of 80 to 90 years in the wild. It is estimated that there are only about 10,000 blue whales today. The more familiar humpback whale can grow up to 52 feet in length. The life span of some of the whales can be up to 200 years. Some migrate to long distances as long as over 10,000 miles a year. Whales are singers. Humpback whales are known to sing complex songs.
Plastic pollution and waste are threatening marine wildlife and ecosystems. WWF (World wildlife fund) indicates that more than 11 million metric tons of plastic flow into the ocean every year. As it can take several decades, if not centuries, for the plastic to degrade, it would cause damage to marine ecosystems and biodiversity for centuries and result in irreversible damage.
Whaling is the practice of hunting and killing whales to sell and trade their meat and its by-products. Researchers estimate that nearly three million whales were killed for commercial whaling in the 20th century. World Wildlife Funds estimates put six out of the 13 great whale species are classified as vulnerable or endangered. Even though there is a restriction about whaling, implementation of the same is found to be challenging.
The iron-rich faeces of whale poop create favourable conditions for phytoplankton’s growth, pulling carbon from the atmosphere while producing oxygen. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) study indicated that great whale sequesters 33 tons of carbon dioxide during its lifetime. When these animals die, the carbon becomes fuel for deep-sea ecosystems or marine sediments deep within the ocean bed. Next time you use perfume, it is good to remember that some of them may have ingredients coming from the Whale vomit (Ambergris). It is referred to as the treasure of the sea and floating gold.
As humanity put all the efforts into progress and grow, the path chosen for improvement has not been equitable. It brought many ecological downsides, and the ways decided to have been destructive and threatened the planet’s very survival. Oil spills, plastic litter, and industrial waste destroy ocean life and aquatic life, finding their way to oceans. Whales are no exception to the same. Humans need to remember that they and other life forms on the planet need to be together. Destruction of one cause imbalance and would impact the survival of all.
Even the mightiest needs protection, as they are more robust in their own environment, and if we pollute it, the stronger become vulnerable and lose their battle. World Whale Day is to remind us about the importance of conservation.
Let World Whale Day be the day of educating about the whales and taking steps to protect them.