For the first time in over a century, scientists have discovered Fin whales feeding in waters in numbers not seen since the start of the industrial whale slaughter that began in the early parts of the last century. The discovery was announced in a study published in the Journal Nature on July 7th.
In March 2021, a right whale and her calf were spotted off the coast of North Carolina. Locals tell stories of how whales used to be hunted from the shores of the Outer banks in the 1800s by sight, but since 1970 when industrial whaling was outlawed, you had to look long and hard to see any kind of whale, let alone a Right whale, off the mid-east Coast.
And in October 2020, a humpback whale was videotaped off Old Lyme, Connecticut by Joe Diorio who said “I’ve been fishing this area for 30 years and I have never seen a humpback in this area.”
You have to ask yourself, with all the news of bleaching coral reefs, plastic pollution, and fisheries collapses are all these charismatic megafaunas showing up in the news in such large numbers?
Doctor Helena Herr, the author of the fin whale study that was quoted everywhere from the New York Times to CNN about how the oceans are showing signs of hope, said in an exclusive interview with The Current Affairs Times on Thursday, “I think it is a trap if you witness some great natural event to extrapolate (that) to the whole ocean. Just because we have a positive sign in one place, that doesn’t mean the ocean is healthy again.”
She points to climate change, overfishing, and pollution as key issues facing the planet and the world’s oceans. But that doesn’t necessarily address why we are seeing growing numbers of charismatic megafauna.
In truth, the only reason we are seeing these animals increasing in numbers is that we as humans are allowing them to do what they do by not hunting them.
Look at the gray wolf, the American Bison, and the African elephant. All have and still are flirting with extinction due to human predation. In the case of the elephant, World Wildlife Fund reports, “Today, there are just 415,000 elephants across Africa. While elephant poaching is trending downward, with significant declines in East Africa, poaching continues to steer the species dangerously nearer to extinction.” If the elephant lived 1000 miles out to sea, their numbers would be going up as well.
Doctor Herr warns against glad-handing the news that whales are making a comeback. “We hunted them to extinction, and they were almost beyond the point of recovery, “she says, “A strict ban on whaling…allowed them to recover. We didn’t do much else for them, but just not hunt them.”
In truth, as world fish stocks decline and ocean acidification and warming cause mass extinctions, the charismatic megafauna will reproduce themselves out of existence. And these stories about how good we’re all doing as a civilization since the whales are showing up again will seem quite hollow when the bloated corpses of starved humpbacks start washing up on Cape Cod beaches.
We are hurtling toward a global breakdown of the world ecosystem at a hundred miles an hour and doing nothing about it. Be careful how many “Atta Boys” you throw around when you see your next breaching whale offshore because when they go this next time, they’ll be gone.
Thumbnail Credits: Helena Herr Interview
- Return of large fin whale feeding aggregations to historical whaling grounds in the Southern Ocean | Scientific Reports