Blue Whales are the largest animals ever known to have lived on Earth. These amazing marine mammals rule the oceans at up to 100 feet long and about 200 tons (181 metric tons). Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant! Blue whales live in all the world’s oceans occasionally swimming in small groups but usually alone or in pairs. They often spend summers feeding in polar waters and undertake lengthy migrations towards the Equator as winter arrives. These graceful swimmers cruise the ocean at more than five miles an hour (eight kilometers an hour), but accelerate to more than 20 miles an hour (32 kilometers an hour) when they are agitated. Blue Whales are among the loudest animals on the planet. They emit a series of pulses, groans, and moans, and it’s thought that, in good conditions, they can hear each other up to 1,000 mile away. Scientists think they use these vocalizations not only to communicate, but along with their excellent hearing, to sonar-navigate the lightless ocean depths. The Blue Whale’s average lifespan is estimated at around 80 to 90 years. This means that they are the longest living whale on the planet!
Why they are important:
- Whales are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment.
- Growing economies in whale watching and tourisms (these do not include amusement parks).
- Finally science — these HUGE marine mammals help us understand echo location and how or if these creatures can learn.
What is the problem: Largely affected by the whaling industry during 1900-1960, the Blue Whale was pushed to the brink of exception. In addition, critical whale habitats are to move further south due to climate change. Their habitat is where water can rise from the depths, bringing with it large amounts of nutrients that stimulate the growth of phytoplankton and support substantial populations of prey species for whales. Blue whales would have to migrate further (perhaps 200-500 km more) to reach and feed at these food-rich areas where they build up reserves to sustain themselves for the rest of the year.
Why they are going extinct: Between 1900 and the mid-1960s, some 360,000 Blue Whales were slaughtered. They finally came under protection with the 1966 International Whaling Commission, but they’ve managed only a minor recovery since then.
How we can help: Support efforts to improve fishing gear by only buying seafood that is MSC certified. This can help to reduce the incidence of marine by catch, which kills whales and other marine life like turtles, dolphins, and seabirds.
Adopt a Blue Whale with WWF!
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