Cultivating Whale Conservation for a Vibrant Ocean

Cultivating Whale Conservation for a Vibrant Ocean

On February 18th, we celebrated World Whale Conservation Day!

Now given that Ross Park Zoo is located in Upstate NY some may wonder why we should even take part in whale conservation but there are actually quite a few species of whale that inhabit our seascape that ranges from Cape May, New Jersey up to Montauk, New York! Many species including Humpback, Fin, Minke, and North Atlantic Right Whales are often seen off of the coast of New Jersey and New York.

Something new that I even learned as I dove deep into whale’s role in the ecosystem is that whales actually play a big role in combating climate change! Whales are actually responsible for providing up to 50% of our oxygen**. The natural behaviors of whales often create what is referred to as a whale pump. This is reference to how “the way that whales feed, poo, migrate, and dive between the surface and the ocean depths (known as the ‘whale pump’), circulates essential nutrients throughout the ocean. This in turn supports healthy marine ecosystems and the growth of phytoplankton, which locks in a massive amount of carbon from the atmosphere.**” It is actually believed by researchers that as whales were being killed in mass amounts during the industrial revolution, it actually expedited the process of climate change due to the carbon no longer being absorbed at a mass rate by the phytoplankton as the amount of whales began to disappear from the ecosystem. This is just one of the many examples that truly shows how interconnected each organism is within an ecosystem!

The practice of whaling, the killing of whales for commercial use, came about due to the attraction of whale meat, their blubber, oils and other “usable” products. Eventually legislation was implemented in 1986, it is still a fairly common practice in different countries whereas “Japan, Norway, and Iceland have killed nearly 40,000 large whales since then. Over 100,000 dolphins, small whales, and porpoises are also killed in various countries each year.***It’s shocking to see these animals continuously exploited for the purpose of commercial use in ways in which I was not even aware of. Thousands of whales each year are killed for their “meat and body parts to be sold for commercial gain. Their oil, blubber, and cartilage are used in pharmaceuticals and health supplements. Whale meat is even used in pet food, or served to tourists as a ‘traditional dish’.***”

As disheartening this is, there are still actions that can be taken to combat these practices. One as simple as raising awareness. Raising your voice for these animals can make a huge impact especially when there are many people who are unaware of what is happening to them. It provides them with a voice. Next is to be a conscious consumer. Be intentional about what and where you are buying products and learning more about what company that you are supporting with your purchase. Especially when it comes to purchasing seafood, be sure to buy from sustainable suppliers. Every little action counts because when we all take part it adds to a much larger impact.

Aphrodite (Catalog #1701) is one of the right whale moms of the 2022-23 calving season. She has experienced five known entanglements in her lifetime*

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