From 1900 to 2015, around 3 million whales were hunted, causing great whale populations to plummet in the region of 66 to 90 per cent.

Had we understood the vital role whales play in minimising the effects of climate change, we may have acted very differently.

Diver with sperm whale
Diver with sperm whale

How do whales minimise the impacts of climate change?

The culls of whales during the twentieth century may have affected the structure and function of the oceans, including possibly accelerating climate change as these ocean giants were removed.

In our latest infographic you can discover the fascinating world of whales, including how they permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via their faecal cycle.

This incredible cycle not only minimises the effects of climate change, it supports the health of commercial fisheries we rely upon.

Healthy populations of whales also help ensure coral reefs can thrive and provide valuable income at remote destinations, where activities such as Fiji scuba diving and Tonga whale swims are popular.

Fiji Coral Reef
Fiji Coral Reef

Threats to whales

Whilst some great whales are recovering since the ban on whaling, some whale populations, such as the North Atlantic right whale, continue to be threatened with extinction.

Currents threats to whales include:

• Plastic pollution
• Entanglement in abandoned ‘ghost’ fishing gear
• Climate change
• Toxic contamination
• Exclusion from primary feeding habitats used for oil and gas developments
• Whaling
• Ship strikes

Bowhead, narwhal and beluga whales in Arctic waters are particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change. Changes in the ozone layer and UV radiation affect the krill populations they feed on.

Chemicals and heavy metals are a lesser-known but real threat to whales as well.

High levels of persistent organic pollutants and chemicals accumulate in whale tissues, causing damage to their reproductive and immune systems.

How you can help protect whales for generations to come

It isn’t too late to make changes that help protect whales and there is plenty you can do from home:

• Choose sustainable seafood using your country’s best fish guide (available online)
• Say no to single-use plastics
• Replace plastic household items with non-plastic alternatives
• Reduce your carbon footprint by using public transport, shopping locally and offsetting carbon when travelling
• Minimise your use of household chemicals to reduce the amount of chemicals entering watercourses and the oceans

This article was written by divers and writers at LiveAboard.com

Why whales matter in the fight against climate change

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