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The ecological whale

Save the whales,

save the world.

Whales and dolphins are remarkable. But why are they so important? Why do we need to end captivity, stop whaling, prevent deaths in fishing gear, and create healthy seas? What is so special about whales and dolphins?

Whales play an amazing role in an ecosystem that keeps every creature on Earth alive, including you!

Whales play a vital role in the marine ecosystem where they help provide at least half of the  oxygen you breathe, combat climate change, and sustain fish stocks. How do they do it?  By providing nutrients to phytoplankton.

Drifting in the ocean’s sunlight waters lives a microscopic forest of tiny plant-like organisms, called phytoplankton.  Like plants on land, phytoplankton need the sun’s energy, water, carbon dioxide, and nutrients like iron and phosphate to photosynthesize; a process  which provides them with food and the planet with oxygen and a means to fight climate change.  As the base of the marine food web, phytoplankton is a key component in sustaining fish stocks and as they take in C02, phytoplankton sequester hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon each year, helping to fight climate change.

Different species of whales feed on a range of marine creatures, including krill and fish, in the dark depths of the world’s oceans.

Krill

Whales then come up near the surface to defecate, which is a fancy way of saying they come to the surface to poop.

Whale poop fertilizes microscopic plants called phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton absorbs carbon from the atmosphere – hundreds of thousands of tons each year.

Capture

We need phytoplankton and phytoplankton need whales!

Unlike plants on land, phytoplankton cannot root into the ocean bottom to retrieve the nutrients they need.  Where do they get it?  Research shows that whales bring it to them!  Because whales can’t “poop” under pressure, they take their bathroom breaks at the ocean’s surface and by doing so, supply phytoplankton with life giving nutrients like iron, nitrogen and phosphorus.  Whales are the ocean’s gardeners, tending the forest of phytoplankton on which we all depend.  And because whales migrate, they re-distribute nutrients across latitudes.

Their future is our future.  Save the whale, save the planet, save ourselves.

Even in death, whales give life.

When whales die, they sink to the seabed they become “whale falls” and like phytoplankton, they take vast amounts of carbon with them helping to balance our climate.  However, researchers estimate that because of whaling, large whales now store approximately nine million tons less carbon than before large-scale whaling.  Not only an important “carbon sink”, whale falls  also become mini-ecosystems, supporting deep sea organisms for decades.

Save the whales, save the world.

WDC is working to integrate the ecological role of whales and dolphins into global policies on biodiversity, climate change, environment, conservation, fisheries and MPAs (Marine Protected Areas).

Our Successes:

  • Whales' contribution to marine productivity and climate change mitigation included in the agenda of the 28th International Congress for Conservation Biology
  • Chile's resolution on cetaceans and ecosystem services adopted at the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
  • A resolution recognizing the ecological role of whales in healthy ecosystems was adopted at the 67th meeting of the IWC

With your help we can:

  • Work to end the threats facing whales and dolphins.
  • Give a voice to whales and dolphins when advising policy makers locally, regionally and globally.

If you’d like to know more about how whales help fight climate change, please read our free report, which includes full references to scientific papers: Whales - Their Future is our Future.

whale poop pic 2
whale poop pic 3

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Save the whales, save the world.

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Bottlenose dolphin calf

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Breaching North Atlantic right whale

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