Author: Jeffrey

Whale Watchers Can Spot Blue Whales

Whale Watchers Can Spot Blue Whales

Endangered whale’s decline slows, but population falls again

WHALE watchers in the Southern Ocean in October are likely to see minke whales, the endangered baleen whale, breaching and other signs of activity as the population numbers peak in their annual breeding season. That population is declining slowly, in part because of changing ocean conditions that the animals find difficult to survive in, but also because of some human activities.

The blue whale population has been falling for decades and is now at its lowest number ever recorded on record, with fewer than 10,000 animals left in the oceans, down from nearly 1.7 million in 1976. Yet as the species has come under increasing pressure from fishing for bycatch, whale watchers will be able to observe many of the animals through November.

There were 8,600 minke whales spotted in the Southern Ocean in August, a decline of 33 per cent since 2015, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. At 4.5 metres in length, the blue whale is smaller than a sperm whale, which is 6.5 metres in length.

But the blue whale population is so small that in many places, you’ll never be able to spot the whales in the water. “They are very hard to see with the naked eye in open water, but they are extremely large and very distinctive,” says Richard Ingarfield, co-ordinator of the Blue Whale Conservation Initiative at the University of Otago. “They can outstrip a whale shark and be much larger, but are just as difficult to find. They’re like an octopus with the eye of a whale.”

Despite the low numbers, whale watchers can tell a lot about what’s happening to the population. The animals are often in trouble, but not always easy to spot, says Ingarfield. A blue whale is a whale with white flanks, and they tend to stay close to the shore, where they can be seen from a high up vantage point. They don’t swim at night, and often head deeper inshore as spring turns to summer.

The animals usually show a lot of aggression when they feel threatened, and you’re not likely to see them breaching, Ingarfield says. But there are

Leave a Comment