World’s Biggest Mammals Threatened First by Commercial Whaling, Now By Industry
March 27, 2008 | No Comments
The recent discovery of the endangered blue whale off the coast of Chile will have significant implications to a pristine ecological area struggling to keep industry away. The Centro Ballena Azul, Blue Whale Center, a Greengrants grantee, and others are lobbying the government of Chile to declare the Gulf of Corcovado—all 10 million acres of it—a Marine Protected Area. View a map of the proposed Marine Protected Area.
A century of commercial whaling almost pushed the blue whale to extinction. The slaughter peaked in 1931, when 29,000 were killed in one season. By the time hunting blue whales was outlawed in 1966 it is estimated that the population had been reduced by 99 percent, from perhaps half a million to just a few thousand in all the world’s oceans. The blue whale is biggest mammal on the planet, bigger than the biggest dinosaur. They can be up to 100 feet long and 100 tons.
If the species is to survive and rebuild its stock, protecting the Gulf of Corcovado is critical. This would also enable traditional fishermen and salmon farming to continue, but would restrict growth and strictly monitor environmental impact. This pristine habitat survived almost unscathed through the 20th-century. It is now being invaded by industry, in particular commercial salmon farms.
Salmon are not native to the Southern Hemisphere. Nearly 25 years ago Norwegians discovered that the cold waters of the South Pacific are ideal for farming salmon from the North Atlantic. Now Chile is about to overtake Norway as the biggest producer of salmon in the world—providing 60 percent of the salmon Americans eat. But, this growth has come at huge environmental costs, contaminating the waters with feed and harmful chemicals and spreading disease. Read a recent article from the New York Times about the serious issues of commercial salmon farming off the coast of Chile.
It is not only these magnificent whales who are threatened by the commercial salmon invasion—the fragile eco-system is also being destroyed. This recent find of blue whales off the coast of Southern Chile, and the great efforts by Centro Ballena Azul and others to protect the Gulf, will help to sustain the livelihoods of many coastal communities and fisherman.
Read the full article by Jeffrey Kofman at ABC News.