Factsheet 5 – Whales and noise pollution

Blue whale
No other creature has ever existed on Earth as large as the awe-inspiring blue whale. Ironically, this enormous whale’s scientific name Balaenoptera musculus means ‘mouse-like finned whale.’

A grand mammal, the blue whale lives up to 90 years old, weighs up to 180 tonnes and can grow to over 30m long. Their heart alone can weigh as much as a car and their tongue as much as an elephant!

Blue whale
Found in all oceans of the world, blue whales are not gregarious animals and usually travel alone or in pairs. During winter months they mate and calve in tropical to temperate waters and undertake long migrations to polar waters in summer to feed. Despite their enormous size, they feed almost exclusively on tiny shrimp-like animals called krill or euphausiids. A single adult can eat up to four tonnes of krill a day during the feeding season.

Gracefully they cruise the ocean at around 19km/hr and when alarmed can accelerate up to 48km/hr, making them one of the fastest animals in the ocean. Their list of impressive credentials does not stop there. Blue whales are also among the loudest animals on earth. Their song can reach 180 decibels and travel up to 1000 miles across the seas.

Relentlessly hunted by commercial whalers during the 20th Century, blue whales are now endangered with populations still at less than one per cent of their numbers prior to whaling. Now protected from hunting and with nearly no natural predators, they still face a myriad of threats and their survival is far from secured.

Ship strikes, increasing noise pollution and chemical pollution pose significant threats to blue whales. In Australia there are only two known feeding grounds for the blue whale. The Perth Canyon in Western Australia is one of these critical areas and it is currently highly unprotected. AMCS has joined a coalition of groups that are working together to protect these precious waters of south-west Australia in no-take marine reserves. By providing a safe place for blue whales to feed and minimising other threats in and around their critical habitats we can help ensure the survival of this truly magnificent species.


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