Climate Change Impacts Gray Whale Sustainability Concern

Editor’s Commentary:  Several years back I attended a local informational event about the gray whale presented by NOAA’s  Dr. Wayne Perryman.  Prior to this informational event, Sue Arnold, CEO of the California Gray Whale Coalition (CGWC), was in the same region and had presented an informational event where she expressed her concern, based on years of observation and study of the the world’s oldest baleen whale, the gray whale that annually migrates along the Pacific west coast.  Arnold’s take on the health of the current whale population required immediate action and placement on the endangered species list.  Dr. Perryman, based on his research,  solidly disagreed with Arnold’s position. fact, gray whale populations have had an increase over the last few years.  This seemingly weakened CGWC’s stand.  Unfortunately, as feared by CGWC, climate change is impacting gray whales at a greater speed than once considered, as noted in the news piece released today, Researchers Predict Dramatic Drop In Gray Whale Births.

(See above news release below.)

Other recent headline news like With Carbon Dioxide Emissions at Record High, Worries on How to Slow Warming, in the New York Times, reports that  “Global emissions were at a record high in 2011 and are likely to take a similar jump in 2012…the latest indication that efforts to limit such emissions are failing.”

Researchers at the Global Carbon Project are doubtful that the goal to reduce the planet’s warming trend to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, is attainable without “…an immediate, large and sustained global mitigation effort.”

Two hundred nations are presently meeting in Doha, Qatar for  talks on climate change, following heat trapping pollution that grew by 3 percent in 2011. But to date, no progress has been made in resolving global pollution control at the Qatar conference.

While the gray whale may be one of the most adaptable marine mammals in the oceans, and has survived  and adapted to eons of earth changes, this earth change is not a natural change, nor a change that has ever appeared to grow in such an unpredictable and exponential manner.

In 2010, Neptune 911 explained in  A North Pacific Gray Whale Obstacle Course as to why we believe the gray whale deserved additional protection.  Now that today’s news that fears the ample fortification of migrating pregnant gray whales, due to excessive Arctic ice, a probable result of climate change, we hold our position that there must be more the United States can do to protect this remarkable creature.    –Charmaine Coimbra     (Photo by Charmaine Coimbra)

Visit out new blog for kids, Neptune 911 for Kids

oil refineryThe 2011 figures for the biggest polluters:

1. China, up 10 percent to 10 billion tons.

2. United States, down 2 percent to 5.9 billion tons

3. India, up 7 percent to 2.5 billion tons.

4. Russia, up 3 percent to 1.8 billion tons.

5. Japan, up 0.4 percent to 1.3 billion tons.

6. Germany, down 4 percent to 0.8 billion tons.

7. Iran, up 2 percent to 0.7 billion tons.

8. South Korea, up 4 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

9. Canada, up 2 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

10. South Africa, up 2 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

Researchers Predict Dramatic Drop In Gray Whale Births

Monday, December 3, 2012

By Susan Murphy

More than 20,000 gray whales are starting to leave their Alaskan feeding grounds to travel 5,000 miles to the warm lagoons in Mexico. Pregnant females are the first to make the trek in order to give birth in Baja and protect their calves in the warm water.

Gray whales travel10,000 to 14,000 miles roundtrip every year -- from feeding grounds near the Arctic to breeding lagoons in Baja California.

Credit: Washington State Dept. of Ecology

Above: Gray whales travel10,000 to 14,000 miles roundtrip every year — from feeding grounds near the Arctic to breeding lagoons in Baja California.

But a significant drop in calf production is expected this year, according to Wayne Perryman, a biologist with NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. He said when the whales returned to their feeding grounds in the Arctic Circle last spring, the ice was extensive and slow to melt, preventing newly pregnant females from getting enough to eat.

“We had more ice in the spring than has ever been recorded in the satellite record, and that goes back about 35 years,” said Perryman. “And I think the odds of their pregnancies going to term are reduced.”

The 10,000 mile round-trip journey is the longest known migration undertaken by any mammal, and pregnant females fast during the entire trek.

“So if you’re going to reproduce and you’re a gray whale, you want to be a fat girl, because you’re going to give birth to the calf, and you’re going to fast and lactate at the same time,” he said.

Calves drink 50 to 80 gallons of their mother’s milk per day.

Perryman said the past year’s unusual weather could also impact the size of the overall population as well as the timing of the migration.

Gray whale sightings off San Diego’s coast typically peak around mid-January and again in March.

Categories: Climate Change, Condition of Oceans, Global Warming, Marine Mammal Rescue, nature, Ocean acidification, Saving the Oceans, Whales

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