Why Are Whales Important?

Whales play a very important role in the health of our environment and our understanding of marine mammals as well as playing an important role in helping growing economies that rely on whale watching and other spectator activities bring in capital through tourism.

In order to give you a greater understanding of their importance we’ll begin by looking at how whales have helped us develop our understanding of marine mammals and why this understanding has led to new perspectives on the care of various marine mammals.

Next we’ll take a look at how whales affect our environment and the oceans ecosystem and end with how they help growing economies bring in extra money through tourism and local events.

Understanding marine mammals

Humpback Whale JumpingWhales have become an important topic of study among marine biologists and scientists.

Biological and research studies in whale behavior, echolocation, language, intelligence, environmental impact and various other topics have helped scientists learn so much about the whale species and their impact on this world.

By observing how they thrive and survive in the ocean we have learned a great deal about their social structure and how they communicate with one another.

For these marine mammals the development of a healthy society is crucial to their survival.

Depending on the whales species some marine mammals are known to spend the majority of their lives together and will hunt with one another and protect each other from harm.

In some ways this is akin to the way humans, elephants and primates live.

In addition to forming highly developed relationships and societies with one another whales also display a high level of intelligence and self recognition (a characteristic that is found in only a few animal species).

When it comes to communication whales have a very complex language which is so sophisticated some researchers believe that we may be able to communicate with them if we can understand what they are saying and develop the technology necessary to have a conversation or at least communicate our interests with other cetaceans.

Note: The cetacean species is made up of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

This understanding of whale intelligence has brought new insights into the importance of caring for these marine mammals and granting them certain protective rights so that they can continue to thrive in the ocean.

In fact some individuals feel that whales, dolphins and porpoises should be granted many of the same rights as humans and other highly intelligent animals.

Our growing understanding of whales is important for improving the safety measures of all marine mammals as well as improving the oceans ecosystem.

Lastly by studying how these marine mammals use echolocation researchers have been able to improve and implement these methods into our own technology in order to test various ways on how we can improve our own sonar abilities.

It has also educated us on how man made sounds may be affecting the echolocation abilities of other marine animals so that we can try to develop ways to better protect them from harmful man made noise, either by enforcing laws or creating new technology that doesn’t interfere with marine mammal echolocation.

Note: Due to the fact that cetaceans are so intelligent and teachable these marine mammals have been used by the military to help military personnel locate underwater mines and find people lost at sea.

Whales and the environment

Humpback Whale TailWhen it comes to the environment and the oceans ecosystem whales help regulate the flow of food by helping to maintain a stable food chain and ensuring that certain animal species do not overpopulate the ocean.

A blue whale for example can consume as much as 40 million krill per day, so you can imagine the impact this would have on stabilizing the aquatic ecosystem if the blue whale species were to become extinct.

When one species of animal that is important to the food chain dies it allows other species to thrive.

At first it may appear that other species are benefiting from no longer having to face a predator such as whales, but over time these animals will overpopulate and possibly destroy the population of other species that it feeds on, so whales play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem by making sure other species do not overpopulate and destroy the species below them in the food chain.

Even whale poop plays a large role in the environment by helping to offset carbon in the atmosphere.

Studies have shown that the nutrients in sperm whale poop helps stimulate the growth of phytoplankton which pull carbon from the atmosphere to provide a cleaner and healthier breathing environment for all animals.

Estimates state that as much as 400,000 tonnes of carbon are extracted from the air due to these whales each year!

In additional to feeding carbon fighting phytoplankton the fact that whale poop stimulates the growth of phytoplankton means that it also helps feed other species that feed on phytoplankton for their survival.

Phytoplankton helps feed the fish allowing them to thrive and reproduce, and the fish feed many other species that require fish to survive, thus keeping the food chain stable.

In short whale poop plays a major role in maintaining the cycle of aquatic life and is just one of the many different things that make whales so important.

Whales, tourism and growing economies

People Whale WatchingWhale watching has become a huge international spectator activity and tourism booster over the last several decades.

Billions of dollars have been spent by people hoping to get a glance of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

This spending has led to increases in economic growth and stimulation for both wealthy and developing economies world-wide and has become a major source of income for some countries as a part of their tourist attraction.

The growing interest in whale watching has become an increasingly important component for economies that are looking to increase their global presence and attract the interests of other countries.

Cetaceans have even been featured as main characters in certain popular films such as free willy, whale rider, Orca, Big Mircale and Dolphins and Whales: Tribes of the ocean.

Although whales are well received and loved today in the past whales played an important (albeit sad and unfortunate) role in our economic system.

Whale parts and oil were sold and used for many different things including soap, margarine, corset material and transmission oil additives.

During the whaling era many species were slaughtered causing many of them to become endangered and causing all sorts of environmental changes which have affected the earths ecosystem from increased levels of carbon dioxide to global warming (which is affecting our polar ice caps) and changes in the feeding habits of many aquatic lifeforms due to a destabilized food chain.

Today however commercial whaling activities are illegal and those caught hunting whales may face steep fines and jail time.

While there are still groups that continue to hunt these marine mammals the number of participating commercial whalers is continuing to decline and the illegalization of commercial whaling has allowed certain species to begin to repopulate their numbers and grow.

Four reasons why whales are important to our environment:

  1. Whales play an important role in stabilizing the aquatic food chain and reproduction of other species. As more whales are killed the food distribution in the ocean becomes destabilized and causes changes in the food supply of many other kinds of marine life.
  2. Scientific studies of the cetacean species (whales, dolphins and porpoises) has led to a lot of discoveries and advancements regarding echolocation, aquatic environments, marine life/biology and marine mammal intelligence and other important oceanic topics.
  3. Whale poop plays a large role in stabilizing the offset of carbon in the atmosphere providing a healthier environment for both land and aquatic lifeforms.
  4. Whale watching and various other spectating activities have brought in billions of dollars helping stimulate economic growth in various cities, states and countries.

As you can see whales play an extremely important role in our ecosystem by maintaining a stable food chain and feeding other marine animals that help provide a cleaner atmosphere as well as helping growing economies increase their awareness and profitability through tourism.

Without the existence of the whale species the entire worlds economy would see a huge negative shift and everyone and everything would be affected from this change.