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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
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Port River dolphins

New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales hunted every year

When you hear the words ‘dolphin hunts’ it’s likely that you think of Japan or...

Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

Iceland’s commercial hunt of minke whales has ended for this year. The common minke whale is the...

Australian Government to block Japanese whaling proposal

Japanese Government officials have reportedly confirmed that they will propose the resumption of commercial whaling...

Pregnant whales once again a target for Japanese whalers

Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during the 2017/18 austral summer have revealed that...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...

Icelandic whalers breach international law and kill iconic, protected whale by mistake

Icelandic whalers out hunting fin whales for the first time in three years appear to...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...

End the whale hunts! Icelandic fin whaler isolated as public mood shifts

Here’s a sight I hoped never again to witness. A boat being scrubbed and repainted...

Norway increases whaling quota despite declining demand

Norway's government has announced an increase in the number of minke whales that can be...

Icelandic fin whale hunting to resume

Iceland’s only fin whaling company, Hvalur hf,  announced today that it will resume fin whaling...

SOS alert for whales off Norway!

I have to admit to bitter disappointment when I arrived in Tromsø, northern Norway, a...

Whales could help save Arctic Seed Vault

Recently, Norway announced that the entrance to the Global Seed Vault in the Arctic was flooded after very high temperatures caused the permafrost to melt. 

The vault, a storage facility deep inside a mountain on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, is designed to preserve the world’s crops from future disasters. The store holds seeds from c.5,000 crop species from around the world. Dried and frozen, it is believed they can be preserved for hundreds of years.

To help reduce the risk of this happening again, Norway has plans to protect the seed vault from further impacts of climate change, including waterproof walls, and drainage ditches. Whilst these measures are needed to protect the vault from further flooding, they don’t help to tackle the cause of the flooding: climate change.

The Norwegian government could take a significant step to mitigate climate change – and therefore protect the seed vault – by stopping whaling. It sounds strange, I know, but scientific studies are showing how important whales are in combatting climate change.

The contribution made by trees in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing oxygen is widely recognised; however, less well known is the fact that our oceans are by far the largest carbon sink, absorbing 25% of carbon dioxide.

In the ocean, the ‘plants’ that remove carbon dioxide and produce oxygen are microscopic phytoplankton producing at least half of the world’s oxygen. Just as in land-based plants, they need carbon dioxide, sunlight and nutrients. This is where the whales come in!

Phytoplankton live in the sunlit surface waters, which provides them with an essential light source (the sun), but nutrients in the ocean don’t remain free-floating, instead, they sink back to the sea floor where they can’t be recycled back into the water column. Whales feed at depth and return to the surface to breathe, which is also where they defecate. Through this ‘whale pump’, the whales release huge amounts of nutrients at the surface of the water. 

Whale poo is rich in nutrients, including iron and nitrogen, that phytoplankton need to survive. Because whales migrate across oceans, travelling thousands of miles to feed and give birth, they create a mass transit system for nutrients across oceans.

Researchers estimate that as a direct result of whale hunting, large whales now store approximately nine million tons less carbon than before large-scale whaling.

Norway has increased its  quota for minke whales this year, allowing 999 whales to be killed during  the 2017 season. However, as the majority of the minke whales killed by Norwegian whaling vessels are females, many of which are pregnant, the whalers endanger the next generation of whales.

If Norwegian whalers  were to stop their whaling programme, they would be helping to make a significant contribution to mitigating climate change, as well as protecting whales and dolphins.