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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...

Bryde’s Whales Living on Borrowed Time?

WDC Senior Intern, Kate McPherson, reports on the discovery of what may be the world’s most endangered whale species.  

Recent studies have shown that there is a genetically distinct population of Bryde’s whales living in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, their habitat range seems to be confined to a single area, the DeSoto Canyon off the Florida Panhandle. Even more unfortunate, this population appears to have fewer than 50 individuals remaining.

Bryde's whale - Jirayu Tour EkkulNormally, the discovery of a unique subspecies of whale would be cause for celebration—but in the case of these Bryde’s whales, the news has been met with great concern. As year-round residents of the Gulf of Mexico, these individuals are susceptible to a variety of threats including vessel strikes, noise pollution, habitat degradation and long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. Toxins from the oil spill and subsequent dispersant use linger in the environment for far longer than the news coverage of such catastrophes, and these toxins pose both direct and indirect threats to whales, dolphins, and all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico as they make their way through the food chain. Sadly, but not surprisingly, 260 new well deep water drilling permits have been approved in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP oil spill in 2010; a reflection of our increasing demand for fossil fuels and stark reminder that whales such as the Bryde’s whale population are in dire need of our help.

What, then, can be done to help protect these individuals? A petition to list the Gulf of Mexico population as endangered under the Endangered Species Act was recently submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and if it presents substantial evidence that these whales are endangered the NMFS will be required to perform a formal status review to determine whether the species’ status will be changed.  In the meantime, while the feet-dragging policy work takes place, you can make a difference by reducing your dependence on fossil fuels, which in turn lessens the impact on the environment upon which whales and dolphins rely. Try walking, biking, or carpooling to work; refuse plastic bags at the supermarket and bring reusable bags instead; and make your home more energy efficient. We can all take small steps to help save the Bryde’s whales and the ocean they call home.