Monday, September 10, 2007

Disturbing news for the gray whale

This is not a good time to be a gray whale, individually or as a species. As if the recent news that some idiots killed one off the Northwest coast of the U.S. with a machine gun wasn't depressing enough, there's no reason to worry about them all.
In 1994, the gray whales of the eastern north Pacific were removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List in a step considered a major success for conservation. The population was up to 20,000 individuals, considered equal to its historic (pre-modern whaling) level. But a new analysis of the whale's DNA indicates the original population was much larger, perhaps five or even six times as large. That it's apparently leveled off at around 22,000, combined with the small but increasing numbers of underfed animals observed, indicates things aren't as healthy and stable as we'd hoped. Some researchers suspect that warming has damaged the Arctic ecosystem and cut the crustacean population the grays depend on. It's too early to be sure, but there's definitely reason for concern.

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