What is one of the baleen whale’s favorite food? Krill. But as carbon dioxide levels rise, it creates a big problem for these tiny crustaceans.
Studies at the Australian Antarctic Division agency found that krill eggs do not hatch when exposed to higher CO2 levels. In fact, Antarctic Division biologist So Kawaguchi believes there will be a 20-70% decline in Antarctic krill populations by the year 2100 and a complete extinction by 2300. Dr. Kawaguchi says:
“Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the water mean greater levels of ocean acidification. This interrupts the physiology of krill. It stops the eggs hatching, or the larvae developing.”
Although krill are tiny creatures, they are one of the most abundant species on earth and have a massive role in the marine ecosystem. They sit at the bottom of the ocean food chain and serve as sustenance for (or sustenance for the prey of) several animals such as fish, squid, sea birds, seals and whales. If krill die off – or populations diminish significantly – it will have a serious, negative impact on baleen whales and much of the ocean’s ecosystem.
It’s not too late, however, as Kawaguchi suggests a moratorium on fishing in the region until the agency can dive deeper into the effects ocean acidification has on krill.
Blue whales are the largest animals in the world. They can grow up to 100 feet long, weigh 180 tons and live to 90 years old. But people rarely get to witness these majestic giants. Fortunately, activist group Sea Shepherd Society gives us a rare sight of these creatures, after encountering two in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica in late January. They sent a drone up from their boat, the Steve Irwin, and captured this stunning footage of a mother and calf blue whale.
Japan says it will resume whaling in the Antarctic in the 2015 winter season, defying the the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which stated that Tokyo has not proven the mammals need to be killed for research.
In a report in June, the IWC’s scientific committee concluded that it could not determine whether lethal sampling was necessary for Japanese whale stock management and conservation.
Japanese officials said they will submit additional data to support their argument, but still plan to resume whaling in the Antarctic in winter. Tokyo proposed a revised plan to catch 333 minke whales each year between 2015 and 2027, which is around one-third its previous target.
The IWC made a similar indeterminate conclusion in April when Japan revised its Antarctic whaling plan in response to the international court of justice 2014 ruling that the hunts were not truly scientific. As a result of the ruling, Japan sent a non-lethal expedition to the Antarctic for the 2014 season.
In 1986, the IWC banned commercial whaling but Japan continued hunting the animals under a research exemption. The country’s government has spent large amounts of tax money to continue whale hunting operations. In recent years, however, Japan’s actual catch has decreased in part due to a drop in domestic demand for whale meat and protests by anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd.