Every day, whales face numerous threats because of human activities. Among these threats are commercial whaling, getting caught in fishing gear (the biggest cause of death to whales and dolphins), injury and death from collision with ocean traffic, noise and chemical pollution, depletion of food stocks due to overfishing, and the effects of climate change.
Changes in our climate are potentially making a fairly rare threat – entrapment in ice – a more common one for whales. For example, many of you will remember the real-life efforts to free three gray whales trapped in ice in Point Barrow, Alaska (this month re-imagined in the film Big Miracle).
As the earth’s temperature increases, ice breaks up, causing traps. Climate change also causes warmer water species to move north where – unfamiliar with ice – they get caught.
Since the Point Barrow event, other whales have become entrapped in sea ice. Just a few months ago, in far eastern Russia near the Bering Sea, over 100 beluga whales became trapped under thickening ice, and had to rely upon a few small holes to breathe air and survive.
If you’d like to help protect and rescue whales and other cetaceans, you can do so by supporting the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), which is a charity that gets involved in rescues worldwide – from strandings to helping to stop the capture of whales.
If you’re in the UK, watch out for a short WDCS trailer before Big Miracle, which will be running in a selection of movie houses across the country.
WDCS works to protect all whales but needs your help to do it. You can even try adopting a whale to support their efforts.