Large numbers of southern fin whales have been spotted feeding together in the Antarctic for the first time in almost fifty years.
Since the killing of Southern fin whales in Antarctica was prohibited for 46 years, it appears that the animals are now finally making a comeback close to Elephant Island.
(Photo : NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA on Wikimedia Commons)
Antarctic Ice Shelf Loss Comes From Underneath
Southern Fin Whales Are Coming Back To Antarctica After Almost 50 Years!
One group of researchers flew survey flights over the Antarctic Peninsula, totaling 3,251 kilometers, with the original mission to look at the impact of climate change on krill.
According to IFLScience, the researchers discovered 100 fin whale groups, each made up of one to four whales. In the Weddell Sea, close to Elephant Island, they saw groups of between 50 and 70 whales in one location.
Bettina Meyer, a biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), and the University of Oldenburg as well as the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity, said in a statement that she had never seen so many place whales in one place before.
Meyer is a co-author of a recent paper that details the sight and is published in the journal Scientific Reports. Meyer, the expedition’s leader, was “very fascinated” to see such a large number of groups.
To gather information for the study, the team employed video recordings and a helicopter survey to count the number of fin whales in Antarctica between April 2018 and March 2019.
Fin whale groups ranging in size from one to four individuals were counted 100 times.
In addition, eight abnormally large groups of up to 150 whales were seen by the researchers, and these whales looked to be actively eating.
The researchers were rather surprised as they had previously only seen fin whales eating in groups of up to 13 whales.
The researchers discovered a fin whale hotspot with an estimated 3,618 whales per square kilometer in the area surrounding Elephant Island.
The sightings indicate that fin whale populations in the Antarctic seas have finally begun to rebound.
About Fin Whales
The fin whale, which is the second-largest species of whale after the blue whale, was heavily hunted in the 19th century, Daily Mail reported.
However, when whaling techniques advanced with steam-powered ships and powerful harpoons, decimating other species that were simple to capture, whaling shifted to fin whales.
Sadly, it is believed that more than 700,000 whales had been slaughtered by the time fin whale hunting was outlawed in 1976.
According to the researchers, the results are encouraging for the larger marine ecology. While whales consume krill, they also gain from it. Iron-rich whale feces serves as a fertilizer for aquatic microalgae and is a rich source of nutrients. In turn, krill’s primary food source is phytoplankton.
Professor Meyer noted that when the whale population increases, the creatures recycle more nutrients, raising the Southern Ocean’s productivity. It promotes the growth of algae, which in turn use photosynthesis to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lower atmospheric CO2 levels.