As many are aware, right whales got their name because when whaling was more prevalent they were considered the ‘right’ whales to hunt. Today they encounter a new threat.
The good news: in the southern hemisphere, at least, right whales have shown a serious rebound with population figures as of 1997 estimating as many as 10,000 of these whales.
The bad news: where in 2003 we were only finding a few whales that would mysteriously die, in more recent years we’ve seen figures up in the eighties and nineties, with the majority of these casualties being calves, which may be dying from malnutrition as their blubber was alarmingly thin.
As southern right whales feed in Antarctica the greatest portion of their diet comes from krill. Here it points out that as krill may grow scarcer with global warming so to may southern right whales.
With this in mind we cannot help but revisit the certification of Antarctic krill as a sustainable fishery. The growing number of whale deaths is only one example of the far-reaching effects of a decline in Antarctic krill that would surely dramatically exacerbate with an opening of the fishery.
As we mentioned in prior posts there were blatant holes in the methodology in MSC certification that make their claims questionable – most notably their decision not to classify bottom trawling as a destructive fishing practice. With such an example of obvious turning of blind eye and what is an at best inexact science surrounding the process of determining safe levels of krill to extract, certification for the krill fishery in the Southern Ocean is dangerous.
Right whales are only one example of the spreading effects of krill declines from climate change and human extraction. It will be interesting to see if there are similar trends among the penguin populations and other animals that rely on this base of the Antarctic food chain.