The oceans are sick and dying. Dead whales are a horrific omen.
Last year, over 700 whales were stranded around the globe, including 337, 23-ton sei whales found along a remote stretch of Chile’s rugged coastline.
In January, 30 sperm whales were strewn across Europe’s trash-filled beaches. It was frightening to see these record-holding deep divers disgorged from the sea.
These 65-foot, 55-ton whales reach two miles deep into the abyss and its frigid darkness, relying upon 17-pound brains (more than five times heavier than a human brain) that use echolocation to hunt colossal squids. It is the battle of Earth’s two largest titans.
Instead of remaining mysterious and far away from rapacious humans, these giant whales can no longer hide; they are now dying in record numbers.
All whales are vital for the health of the oceans.
We need all the whales alive because they fertilize the sea with their flocculent fecal plumes (feces), rich in iron and nitrogen, stimulating phytoplankton — the base of the entire marine food web. In turn, the phytoplankton and ubiquitous blue-green bacteria called prochlorcoccus provide us with almost two out of every three breaths of oxygen that we breathe.
Burning fossil fuels has destroyed 40 percent of the ocean’s phytoplankton. The whales are rebuilding the ocean’s missing phytoplankton, thus ensuring we all breathe.
Last week, 13 of the 30 January sperm whale necropsies from Germany revealed that the whales were starving. Their stomachs and intestines were bloated with plastics, causing slow and painful deaths by clogging their circulatory systems and eventually stopping their hearts.
What we do to the oceans with subsidized, climate-altering, petroleum-based plastics, we do to ourselves.
There are an estimated 51 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans, and it is killing whales and so many other marine species, including sharks, rays, tunas, sea turtles, sea lions and albatrosses.
It is time for each of us to reduce our consumption, reuse materials like glass and repurpose everything else. If something cannot be repurposed then refuse to buy it.
Join the #SaturdayPlasticPatrol movement each Saturday morning around the globe and pick up three pieces of plastics off beaches, river banks, sidewalks, local parks, streets or a parking lots. Take a picture, post it on Facebook using #SaturdayPlasticPatrol and get a friend to join each week. Do it for our oceans.
We need the whales to survive, and they are telling us to stop polluting the oceans. It is time to seriously listen and immediately end plastic pollution.
Save nature now.
Earth Dr. Reese Halter is the author of “Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.”