Whale Breach

Protect the Whales, Save the Planet

LOS ANGELES — Over the past couple of years, I have reported on skyrocketing whale deaths – it is horrific and worrisome.

Let me tell you why:

Whales are farmers of the sea. Their flocculent fecal plumes are rich in iron and nitrogen, which fertilize phytoplankton and prochlorococcus (cyanobacteria). Together, the phytoplankton and bacteria provide almost two-thirds of all the oxygen  we breathe. Oxygen makes up almost 65 percent of human body weight.

Whale on Beach
In June 2015, 337 sei whales were victims of man-made global warming along a remote stretch of Chile in the largest mass stranding of baleen whales ever recorded. Image Credit: ToxicWeb/Flickr

Fossil fuel heat has infused 300 zettajoules of energy into the oceans, half of that has accumulated since 1997. It’s the equivalent energy of detonating one Hiroshima-style bomb every second for 75 straight years. Think about that for just a minute. Hiroshima. Every. Second.

That fossil fuel heat has disrupted the cold ocean currents from upwelling and carrying iron and nitrogen to fertilize phytoplankton, the base of the entire marine food web. As a result, the oceans are missing 40 percent of the phytoplankton. The whales are attempting to re-grow the phytoplankton, thereby enabling us to breathe and sleep.

In America, 70 million people suffer from insomnia or lack of sleep on a regular basis. Based on the rising sales of pharmaceutical sleep aids, the problem is getting worse.

My colleagues from Scripps Institute have shown that burning fossil fuels has robbed at least 600 oxygen molecules per 1,000,000 oxygen molecules from the atmosphere. While that is not enough to disrupt human daytime activity, it has begun to impinge upon our sleep patterns.

Impact of burning fossil fuels
Atmospheric oxygen concentration steadily declining from burning fossil fuels. Credit: Scripps Institute of Oceanography

It is unacceptable that both Japan and Norway promote commercial whaling in the face of the 1986 global whaling moratorium. Japan is a rouge whaling nation. Japan has an unpaid whaling fine in Australia. Japan flouts the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which found that they were commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

The climate crisis is starving the whales. Crab pot traps are entangling and killing  whales. Each year, 646,000 metric tons of fishery gear is disdainfully discarded and it indiscriminately murders 308,000 cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises). Persistent organic pollutants are wiping the cetaceans off the map. Increasing ship strikes are killing endangered whales. And now the coup de grâce: ever-rising seismic surveys – 252 decibels of incessant airgun blasts – scouring the sea beds for more subsidized, climate-altering fossil fuels.

“The exploration companies generally deploy 30 or 40 airguns that all go off simultaneously. A typical airgun will go off every 9 to 12 seconds. They go back and forth, back and forth, over huge areas of the ocean like mowing the lawn — they do this for weeks and months at a time,” said Cornell University bio-acoustic expert Dr. Christopher Clark.

Recently, the Trump administration proposed opening up 90 percent of the U.S. coastline to seismic surveys. Seismic surveys destroy sea life in phytoplankton. Seismic surveys deafen whales. A deaf whale is a dead whale.

It’s a no-brainer: end the $5.3 trillion annual fossil fuels subsidies immediately.

It’s essential that the lawmakers globally protect all remaining whales, ban seismic surveying, reduce fossil fuel emissions as quickly as possible until a zero-combustion economy is attained and prevent the loss of more oxygen from both the atmosphere and oceans. The oceans are in dire condition. Healing the oceans is central to the survival of the human race.

Support Sea Shepherd because they protect the whales. Become a conscientious resister and only support ethical products and services. Together we are an unstoppable force for goodness and the protection of Mother Nature!


Dr Reese Halter is a treehugger, storyteller, award-winning broadcaster, distinguished conservation biologist and author.

Dr Reese Halter’s latest book is
Save Nature Now  

Tweet @RelentlessReese


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