This Wildlife Wednesday learn about the humpback whale, plus other marine creatures that suffer as a result of our garbage in the waters.
Earlier this week, a young humpback whale (about one to three years old) washed up on shore in White Rock, a coastal community near Vancouver, BC. It died soon after washing up on the beach. The animal was severely emaciated, and likely had not eaten in days. The reason? It was entangled in marine debris—a fishing line, to be precise. The fishing gear preventing it from swimming quickly enough or diving deeply enough to feed on its typical diet of krill, small fish, and plankton.
This Wednesday learn about the humpback whale, plus other marine creatures that suffer as a result of our garbage in the waters.
Habitat: throughout the world’s oceans
Humpback whale trivia
- Humpback whales are famous for their singing; their immense vocal range is being studied by scientists to learn how they communicate and/or attract mates.
- Every year they migrate long distances from their feeding grounds in the summer to their breeding grounds in the warm equator winters, and back again.
- They typically weigh 40 tons, but they don’t stop growing until they’re about 10 years old; a testament to just how young the whale who washed up in White Rock really was.
Why they’re threatened and how you can help
Humpback whales are considered a threatened species, deemed a species of special concern under the federal Species at Risk Act.
Although the humpback whale in White Rock seems like a freak accident, the sad truth is that it happens all the time. If a fishing line can take down such a large and powerful creature as a humpback whale, it’s frightening to imagine what marine debris can do to other species.
According to the Vancouver Aquarium, for example, “seal pups that have swallowed fish hooks have been admitted to the Rescue Centre.” This particular centre generally accepts about 40 animals per year, many of which have suffered due to human activity such as marine debris. Similarly, other animals such as sea turtles or sea birds eat plastic thinking it’s food; the plastic fills up in the stomachs of these animals and they feel full, so they eat less and end up dying of starvation.
Reducing the amount of litter you create and single-use plastic you use can make a huge difference. In the case of commercial fishing gear, individuals are not powerless either; we can contact companies and government officials to demand change. For more tips about how we can help, and more information on how marine debris affects the oceans and food chain, check out our recent article “Plastic in Our Oceans.”
Bycatch refers to accidentally caught fish, which is then wasted. This is another major concern, but thankfully, individuals can also make a difference here as well, by purchasing sustainable seafood that is well managed, with minimal bycatch. Look for seafood that has an Ocean Wise or SeaChoice certification at grocery stores and restaurants.