The majestic blue whale: At up to 30 meters (100 feet) in length and 140 tonnes or more in weight, it is believed to be the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth. "Blue Whales were abundant in most oceans around the world until the beginning of the twentieth century. For the first 40 years of that century they were hunted by whalers almost to extinction [about 99% were killed]. Hunting of the species was outlawed by the international community in 1966." According to a 2002 report by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, there were only 5,000 to 12,000 Blue Whales worldwide.
The recovery of the species has been progressing slowly since 1966, which is why the discovery by scientists of a blue whale nursery near the coast of Patagonia, in the Golfo Corcovado, is so important. "More than 150 blue whales have been tracked there in the past few years, including several mother and child pairs."The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has included that area in its Save BioGems campaign. It's a great initiative because the first step toward taking better care of ecosystems is to know about them ("duh", you say, but few people know about the less mediatized ecosystems). It is not enough for a few scientists and government officials to know about them; the general public must be aware of how marvelous and precious these biogems are. Without public awareness, it is all too easy for those who would profit from the destruction of these jewels to do so without opposition.
So lets have a look at some facts about the blue whale nursery off Patagonia's coast:
Animals include: Blue whales, humpback whales, orcas, Chilean dolphins, South American sea lions and fur seals, South Andean deer
- In Patagonia's Aysén region, deep fjords provide a sheltered habitat for blue whales, humpback whales, orcas, Chilean or black dolphins, Peale's dolphins, South American sea lions and South American fur seals.
- Aysén is one of the least polluted places in the world, due to its remote location, sparse population and the low-impact lifestyle of its residents.
- More here.
So what are the main threats to this biogem?
Endesa, a Spanish energy company, has plans to dam at least half a dozen rivers in Patagonia and construct thousands of miles of transmission lines to carry energy to mines in the north. In addition, a Canadian mining company, Noranda, has proposed a second series of dams and an aluminum smelter in Patagonia's unspoiled Aysén region that would release 1.5 million tons of waste each year into surrounding waterways and forests. All of the smelter's raw materials would have to be brought in on ships, dramatically increasing the traffic through the pristine coastal habitat of whales, dolphins and other marine species. Together with the toxic pollution, the marine traffic could wreak havoc on this legendary wilderness.
Michelle Bachelet, Chile's new president, has pledged to make protection of the environment. If you want to ask her to create a national protected area for Patagonia's blue whales, you can do so here (please!).