Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hunted, rammed, poisoned, whales may die from heartbreak too

There was an article in yesterday's news about the plight of whales and rapidly dwindling numbers of many different species. The causes described for the decline are entirely at the hands on humans and span from direct causes such as hunting to indirect causes such as harvesting krill to fee factory farmed fish. The article contains a number of statistics and a quote from a biologist from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, but the saddest part of the article deals with the blue whales. In the 19th century there were nearly a quarter of a million, but there are only estimated to be 2,200 remaining. The article ends with a passage from Yves Paccalet about an overlooked cause for the decline:
For Yves Paccalet, a French naturalist and philosopher who helped push through the 1986 moratorium, the intelligent and highly-social creatures may be so exhausted from their centuries-long combat with humankind that they have simply have given up the fight.

"The psychological consequences of our aggression have compromised their will to live," said Paccalet, who worked extensively with French marine explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

"To reproduce, whales need a large number of individuals to ensure that they meet, and then to frolic and excite each other. Otherwise, a species may give in to a kind of sexual melancholy and simply stops breeding," he told AFP.

The giant blue whales are so few, he added, that they rarely cross paths.

"The balance remains very fragile: if we leave whales alone, it is not impossible that they will prosper. If we don't, the decline could be rapid," he said.

No comments: