Whales are beautiful animals and are found in all oceans around the world. Learning more about these animals will enhance your whale watching experience, no matter where. This articles focuses on Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
What are whales
Whales are marine mammals, with sleek, streamlined bodies that move through the water seemingly without effort. They are the only mammals, other than manatees, that live their entire life in the water, and the only ones living in the open oceans.
Like all mammals they:
– breathe air into lungs
– have hair (although a lot less than land mammals, and almost none as adults)
– are warm-blooded (they maintain a high body temperature)
– have mammary glands with which they nurture their young
– have a four-chambered heart
There are a total of 39 different species, 15 are baleen whales including the Humpback, Gray and Blue whale, and 24 are toothed whales including the Sperm whale. Baleen whales are characterized by having baleen plates for filtering food from water, which expand during feeding. Toothed whales, as the name suggests, are characterized by having teeth (rather than baleen).
Every year, Humpback and Gray whales migrate along the coastline from Alaska to Los Cabos, Mexico. They head south throughout December, and return northwards from around March to April. On a daily basis during the season from December through April are humpback and gray whales, and two of the species we occasionally encounter are sperm and blue whales.
When seeing such amazing and graceful animals, one cannot believe there are still countries that support commercial whaling.
In 1986 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) finally responded to decades of unsustainable whaling and adopted a moratorium on all commercial whaling. A total of 89 countries are a member of the IWC, however membership does not exclude whaling. Despite the ban Iceland, Norway and Japan continue commercial whaling using a loophole in the IWC’s founding treaty. Norway officially objected and continues allocating annual quotas for whaling. Iceland and Japan use the special permits of Article VIII ‘Scientific Research’ for commercial whaling. These three countries keep pressuring the IWC into legalizing commercial whaling, even in designated santuaries. Recent polls show that the majority of the Japanese populationd does not support whaling in the Southern Ocean and nearly 87% does not know their tax money is used to subsidise the whale hunt. As the whale industry in Japan is being exposed, whale meat sales have dropped by over 30%, showing that education and awareness are key to the survival of whale species worldwide.
There are at least a 86 cetacean species recognized by the International Whaling Comission, including all whale species. Although some species have been closely studied, relatively little is known about their biology, ecology and status of whale species and populations. This demonstrates the need for the continued and increasing international research efforts and the development of comprehensive conservation programs to alleviate the growing pressure on these species.Commercial Whaling
Some species are not threatened as a global population, but specific population of the species might be Endangered.
Cetaceans, including all whale species, are increasingly threatened by human activities including:
hunting and whaling
fisheries interactions including mortality from accidental capture of entanglement (bycatch)
habitat degradation or loss from coastal development and associated pollution
noise disturbance and collision with vessels
depletion of food resources through competition with fisheries
climate change impacts
The impact of these threats is worse when two or more threats occur at the same time. These threats, if allowed to continue unabated, are likely to overwhelm some species, subspecies and populations and possibly drive some to extinction in the near future. These areas need to be targeted to actively manage conservation management of these animals.
By participating in a whale watching tour people directly support whale conservation as the public is made more aware of the current status of whales and they support whale research directly, which contributes to whale conservation on a global scale.