Monday, September 10, 2007

The great gray whale famine

Scary news, the Pacific ocean can no longer provide enough food for today's small remnant population of gray whales. But wait, gray whales are supposed to be a success story of recovery after the end of commercial whaling.

Gray whales still have a long ways to go to recover, according to a new study of gray whale genetic diversity. There were once around 100,000 gray whales, compared to today's population of around 20,000. And today's small population can't seem to find enough to eat, so they're getting skinny and even starving.

What this means is that today's ocean can't support as many whales as the 1800 ocean. Leading candidate for this whale famine? Climate change that is limiting the whale's food supply in the Bering Sea.

Gray whales, since the root around in the bottom to feed, have a big effect on ocean ecosystems, so loss of whales affects more than whales.

This is a real shifting baseline problem, as explained by Jennifer at Shifting Baselines.

1 comment:

Kate said...

yet people go on claiming that it isn't all as bad as "the scientists" make it out to be, and that this is just another natural fluctuation in weather patterns.

We're heading for another mass extinction and it's only been a short while since the last. Man has hurried what nature would have taken her own sweet time to do...

Meanwhile people keep their heads in the sand.