Author: Jacob

Bowhead Whales Are Disappearing

Bowhead Whales Are Disappearing

Gray whales continue to wash up dead and emaciated, but causes remain elusive

Marine biologist Jon Wroblewski on the carcass of a bowhead whale he has been studying

For decades, the bowhead whale was as synonymous with California as sunshine and whales, its graceful breaching echoing across a wide swath of the planet.

Then, in the years following the end of the whaling era, the whales’ population plummeted. Then, in the years following the advent of commercial whaling, the animals began to disappear. Now, according to new research led by Jon Wroblewski, the last of the species is disappearing in full as the ocean acidifies.

Wroblewski is a marine biologist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who is studying the disappearance of these massive animals.

“A bowhead whale has about the same surface area as a human: an average of about 65 square meters,” he says.

“You can use the same surface area as a solar panel to power a house. You’d need a lot of solar panels to keep the house warm in really cold winter, and a lot of panels to power your house in really bad summer.”

The reason for the disappearing bowhead population has been hotly debated among whale researchers and conservationists over the last 50 years – and its cause is still not fully understood.

According to Wroblewski, more complex factors such as ocean warming, ocean acidification (the result of the increasing acidity of the water), and disease are behind the whales’ decline.

“We think these are the three main drivers behind the decline and that they are related,” he says.

“Ocean acidification, for example, is basically the lowering of the buffering capacity of the ocean. The ocean has this buffer capacity. Every time the ocean acidity changes, it lowers the buffering capacity of the ocean. Now

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