Whales, dolphins and porpoises are facing increasing threats from climate change, according to a new report published by WDCS and WWF ahead of the 59th meeting of the International Whaling Commission.
The report Whales in hot water? highlights the growing impacts of climate change on cetaceans. They range from changes in sea temperature and the freshening of the seawater because of the melting of ice and increased rainfalls, to sea level rise, loss of icy polar habitats and the decline of krill populations, in key areas.
Krill – a shrimp-like marine animal that is dependent on sea ice, is the main source of food for many of the great whales.
Accelerating climate change adds significantly to disturbances from other human activities, such as chemical and noise pollution, collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing nets, which kills some 1,000 cetaceans every day.
Other projected impacts of climate change listed in the report include: reduction of available habitat for several cetacean species unable to move into colder waters (e.g. river dolphins); the acidification of the oceans as they absorb growing quantities of CO2; an increased susceptibility of cetaceans to diseases; and reduced reproductive success, body condition and survival rates.
Elliott, W. and Simmonds, M. 2007. Whales in Hot Water? The Impact of a Changing Climate on Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises: A call for action. WWF-International, Gland Switzerland / WDCS, Chippenham, UK. Full report.