Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Killer whales and smoke on the water

Have you ever felt poisoned by car exhaust? Maybe in a tunnel or underground garage? That's how killer whales feel after a day of whale-watching.

Hard to believe? A new study shows that after a busy 12 hour day of nearly continuous whale-watching, killer whales suck in exhaust at levels that hurt.

Boat exhaust tends to hang on the water's surface, right where the whales breathe. And boats can be quite dirty since they're not subject to the same pollution control laws as cars. Combine this exposure with the behavior of sucking in a big breath, holding it and diving deep underwater where the pressure is high, and you have a recipe for sick whales.

According to the Vancouver Sun:

...under average conditions, killer whales have to breathe at least five times more carbon monoxide than is found 100 metres from a busy Los Angeles highway.

"That really surprised me — I didn't think it was going to be that high," said Lachmuth.

"It's because when you're out on the water there's an inversion because the ocean is so cold and in the summer the air is a lot warmer — the CO is sticking right at that interface and it's not moving vertically at all."

Ugh, I never would have expected such nasty pollution exposure for killer whales thanks to well-meaning whale watchers.

We already know that killer whales are the most contaminated wildlife on earth, thanks to eating a diet of contaminated fish. Now we can add exhaust to the list of harms.

1 comment:

Nim said...

It's ridiculous that with all of the knowledge about pollution and global warming that we have, that boat exhaust isn't more regulated.

I guess really it comes down to the fact that animals shouldn't have to entertain us (in captivity or in the wild) to be deserving of our protection.