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Just three dead sperm whales could push the Gulf population over the edge

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Cetacea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-15-10 01:12 PM
Original message
Just three dead sperm whales could push the Gulf population over the edge



The loss of a handful of whales each year can impact a population of hundreds, because sperm whalesespecially femalesrequire a very long time to reach sexual maturity. Females then give birth to just three or four calves during their entire lifetimes.

"They're like humans. Most of the human population is not going to have six kids at once and do that every year," Godard-Codding said.

"As soon as we get to the level of three deaths caused by human interactionand this would include the oil spillthat would jeopardize that particular sperm whale population."

Whales May Be Choked, Drowned, and Poisoned

Oil spills can affect sperm whales and other cetaceans, including dolphins, in a number of ways.

For starters, the marine mammals have to surface to breathe, and if they come up through an oil slick, they can suck the toxic substance into their lungs.

Also, the fumes on the surface of the water after a recent spill can be powerful enough to knock out full-grown whales, causing them to drown. (Read an eyewitness account of smelling the Gulf oil spill.)

Finally, the oil can taint the toothed whales' preyfish and squidaffecting the whales' diets and hurting their chances of raising healthy calves. (See pictures of a sperm whale eating a giant squid.)

"The chemicals in the oil product that move up through the food web are a great concern for us," said Teri Rowles, coordinator of NOAA's marine-mammal health and stranding response program.

Previous studies have shown that at least some of the Gulf of Mexico sperm whales are known to hang around where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was located before it exploded on April 20, triggering the spill.

"Between 2000 and 2005, about 300 whales were seen on a consistent basis right in that area," Texas Tech's Godard-Codding said.

Dead Gulf Sperm Whales Hard to Tally

Some experts worry that the Gulf oil spill could be as damaging to sperm whales as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was to killer whales in Alaska's Prince William Sound.

After the Exxon Valdez disaster, some populations of killer whales were reduced by as much as 40 percent, according to a 2008 study led by marine biologist Craig Matkin of the North Gulf Oceanic Society in Alaska.

Even now, that killer whale population has yet to recover and will likely go extinct in a few decades, Matkin said.

"We lost so many females out of that group that they couldn't catch up again. They still haven't caught up," he said.

If the current oil spill causes more than three Gulf sperm whale deaths this year, it could push that group into the "red zone," Matkin said.

Whether marine mammals are being affected by the Gulf oil spill is unclear. Oil is a suspected factor in the stranding of several coastal bottlenose dolphins (picture), but a firm link has yet to be established, NOAA's Rowles said.

"Deep-diving whales, like sperm whales living away from the shore"and thus closer to the main body of the oil slick"certainly have been exposed," she added.

Finding dead or affected whales will be difficult, however, because the animals spend most of their time underwater, and their bodies do not often wash ashore.

"In the aerial surveys that are being performed as part of the cleanup and marine-mammal observations, we are requesting that people report dead floating whales," Rowles said.

"That would be the most likely way we would detect dead sperm whales."


For more on Walruses in the gulf:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/100521-... /




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FirstLight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-15-10 01:23 PM
Response to Original message
1. Kick...
The animal cost is not just a matter of lost numbers, but species !!

THIS is the disaster, this is the holocaust of the situation.

WHY isn't more being done? whay is this not the focus of the PTB?

oh, yeah...animals don't make profits, do they? they just manage to keep our entire earth and ocean ecosystem in balance, who needs that?
:sarcasm: (did I have to put that in?)


It is gonna get really interesting in the YEARS of damage to come from this, it will effect phytoplankton, and all the way up the food chain...and then we may actually SEE how much these creatures keep things in delicate balance...(maybe if *they* are lucky, humans will leave the planet and the animals can flourish once more...)
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cwydro Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-15-10 01:39 PM
Response to Original message
2. Sadly, BP and our government are doing a masterful job
of hiding corpses. That dispersant will help the oil and anything it kills to sink.

Eventually the enormity will be seen...I am convinced of it now.
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AnArmyVeteran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-15-10 03:42 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. I heard BP is cutting heads off of birds to prevent autopsies.
I don't know why an autopsy can't still be performed, but that is what I heard from a person who was watching the birds on the coast.
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Cetacea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-15-10 08:05 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. And disposing of young dolphin carcasses by night.
According to Riki Ott.
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lies and propaganda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-16-10 11:57 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. i cried when i saw that interview on Countdown..
its becoming to much too bear for the most jaded even..
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Yuugal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-15-10 03:36 PM
Response to Original message
3. K&R
Did Obama declare them safe to eat also?
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-15-10 03:39 PM
Response to Original message
4. Whatever the oil doesn't kill, the chemical dispersants BP uses will finish them off.
It's a toxic soup out there.
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Catherina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-15-10 08:41 PM
Response to Original message
7. Depressing n/t
:cry:
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Bluebear Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-16-10 11:55 PM
Response to Original message
8. Here is #1
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Cetacea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-17-10 12:00 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. Thanks. "The only endangered marine mammals in the upper Gulf of Mexico"
You'd think there would be some mention of them in medea and even by marine biologists. Is there a friggin gag order on mentioning them or is this just not important enough? :nuke:
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