Blue Whales are renowned for being the biggest mammals in the world! They roam around the ocean however, are now critically endangered for so many reasons (mainly caused by humans).
This blog serves as a view to understand these beautiful Blue Whales better. And also to look into how to save them in their fight against extinction!
This interesting video clip by Natural Geographic also summaries Blue Whale characteristics with great footage.
The below headings are to guide you through the blog in case their is any information you are looking for. If not, enjoy the blog from start to finish… You will most likely learn something new!
Blue whales are the largest animals on our planet in today’s modern times . They feed almost exclusively on krill, straining huge volumes of ocean water through their baleen plates (which hang from the roof of the mouth and work like a sieve).
Some of the biggest individuals may eat up to 6 tons of krill in 1 day. Blue whales are also found in all oceans except the Arctic Ocean. Moreover, there are currently five identifiable and recognized subspecies of Blue whales around the globe.
Sadly, the number of blue whales in the world’s oceans has seen a sharp decline and is now only a small fraction of what it was (before modern commercial whaling significantly reduced their numbers during the early 1900s).
But, on a more encouraging note: populations are increasing globally. Currently, Blue whales are listed as endangered under the ‘Endangered Species Act’. The primary threats currently facing Blue Whales are vessel strikes and entanglements in fishing gear.
Fortunately, many global Fisheries and its partners are dedicated to conserving and rebuilding many whales populations worldwide. There are many organisations which use a variety of innovative techniques to study, protect, and rescue these endangered animals.
What is most effective is the engagement of our partners within the fishing industries to develop regulations and management plans that foster healthy fisheries and reduce the risk of entanglements, create whale-safe shipping practices, and reduce ocean noise.
What do Blue Whales look like?
This species of whales gain their name appropriately for the reason that they are simply a gorgeous blue colour. Besides their amazing colour, their size is what is mostly impressive.
Antarctic Blue Whales are generally larger than all other blue whale subspecies.
For example, in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, blue whales can grow up to about 90 feet, but in the Antarctic, they can reach up to about 110 feet and weigh more than 330,000 pounds.
Like other baleen whales, female blue whales are generally larger than males.
Behaviour and Diet
This whale is known for interesting behaviour which is widely studied by marine biologists and other experts around the world. Occasionally, Blue Whales swim in small groups but are more commonly found alone or in pairs.
They generally spend summers feeding in the cooler, polar waters and undertake lengthy migrations towards the warmer Equator region as winter arrives.
These whales typically travel at roughly 5 miles an hour while they feed and travel, however, they can accelerate to more than 20 miles an hour for short bursts of time.
They are also among the loudest animals on the planet, emitting a series of pulses, groans, and moans, and it is thought that in the right oceanographic conditions, blue whales can hear each other up to 1,000 miles away. Scientists think they use these vocalizations to communicate and—along with their excellent hearing—perhaps to sonar-navigate the dark ocean depths.
The primary and preferred diet of blue whales is krill (which are miniscule shrimp-like animals). Fish and copepods (tiny crustaceans) may occasionally be part of the blue whale’s diet as well.
When blue whales hunt for food, they filter feed by swimming toward large schools of krill with their mouth open, then push the water out of their mouth with their tongue while keeping the krill trapped inside their baleen plates.
Where do Blue Whales Live?
Blue whales are found in every ocean except the Arctic. They generally migrate seasonally between summer feeding grounds and winter breeding grounds, but some evidence suggests that individuals remain in certain areas year-round.
Their location preferences also depend on the subspecies of Blue Whale, however, information about distribution and movement varies with location, and migratory routes are not very well-known. In general, distribution is driven largely by food availability—they occur in waters where krill is concentrated.
In the North Atlantic Ocean, the Blue Whales range extends from the subtropics to the Greenland Sea. Blue whales have been sighted in the waters off the coast of Eastern Canada, in the shelf waters of the Eastern United States, and infrequently in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Along the West Coast of the United States, Eastern North Pacific Blue Whales are believed to spend winters off of Mexico and Central America. They likely feed during summer off the U.S. West Coast and, to a lesser extent, in the Gulf of Alaska and central North Pacific waters.
Blue whales with young calves are regularly observed in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) from December through March. Thus, it is believed that; this area is likely an important calving and nursing area for the species.
In the Northern Indian Ocean, there is believed to be a “resident” population of Blue Whales . Blue whale sightings, stranding’s, and acoustic detections have been reported from the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, and across the Bay of Bengal. The migratory movements of these whales are largely unknown, but are believed to be driven by oceanographic changes associated with monsoons.
In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic Blue Whales occur mainly in relatively high latitude waters south of the “Antarctic Convergence” and close to the ice edge in summer. They generally migrate to middle and low latitudes in winter, although not all whales migrate each year.
Pygmy blue whales are typically distributed north of the Antarctic Convergence and are most abundant in waters off Australia, Madagascar, and New Zealand. An unnamed subspecies of blue whale is found in the South Eastern Pacific Ocean, particularly in the Chiloense Ecoregion, and migrates to lower latitude areas, including the Galapagos Islands and the eastern tropical Pacific.
Lifespan and Reproduction of Blue Whales
These whales are among Earth’s longest-lived animals (believed to have been around in some later prehistoric ages). Their average lifespan is estimated at around 80 to 90 years and Scientists estimate their age by counting the layers of waxlike earplugs collected from deceased whales.
Scientists know very little about the life history of the Blue Whale. The best available science suggests the gestation period is approximately 10 to 12 months, and that blue whale calves are nursed for about 6 to 7 months after being born.
Weaning probably occurs on, or en route to, summer feeding areas in the equator regions of the ocean. The age of sexual maturity is thought to be 5 to 15 years and most of the reproductive activity- including births and mating- takes place during the winter. The average calving interval is probably between 2 and 3 years.
Current Threats to Blue Whales
Unfortunately, these whales have become subject to many threats which they cannot protect themselves from every single day. Due to the cruelty and inconsideration of humankind, their sharp drop in population numbers is largely our fault. Most action needs to take place internally in the fishing organisations.
Vessel strikes can injure or even kill blue whales. Vessel strikes refer to the collision of whales in the ocean with these massive ships. These strikes have killed blue whales throughout their age range, but the risk is evidently much higher in some coastal areas with heavy vessel traffic. It is therefore, up to any shipping authority and industry to pay more attention into not striking these animals in the ocean en route their destination.
Whales all kinds can become entangled in fishing gear, either swimming off with the gear attached to their fins or becoming anchored down and drowning. Blue whales can become entangled in many different gear types, including traps, pots, and gillnets and once entangled, whales may drag and swim with attached gear for long distances, ultimately resulting in fatigue, compromised feeding ability, or severe injury, which may lead to reduced reproductive success and eventual death.
This form of threat towards whales is utterly inexcusable, it is important that fisheries are held accountable for responsible fishing practices and dispose of their unwanted fishing nets properly.
Additional threats include ocean noise (this can disturb the communication between whales and even disturb their navigation which they use through their echolocation characteristics), habitat degradation (fewer krill being available to feed on etc.) , pollution , vessel disturbance, and long-term changes in the climate.
It is the responsibility of humans to rectify this wrong doing and raise awareness for these amazing animals.
Fun Facts About Blue Whales
1. These whales are the largest animals to ever live on the planet, reaching maximum lengths of 110 (33.5 m) feet and weights of 330,000 pounds (150 metric tons).
2. These whales can live for 80 to 90 years on average!
3. Blue whales are the loudest animals on the planet capable of producing sounds that can be heard by other blue whales up to 1,000 miles away.
4. These whales can eat up to 12,000 pounds (5.4 metric tons) of krill in a day.
5. These whales swim 5 miles per hour on average but can swim more than 20 miles per hour in short bursts.
6. It’s thought that a blue whale’s tongue weighs about 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms). It would weigh more than a female Asian elephant!
7. Its poo is described as smelling like a dog’s, with the consistency of bread crumbs- this whale can excrete up to 200 litres of poo in one bowel movement.
8. They mainly catch their food by diving, and descend to depths of approximately 500 m.
9. These whales have few predators but are known to fall victim to attacks by sharks and killer whales, and many are injured or die each year from impacts with large ships.
10. Although this whale is a deep-water hunter, as a mammal, it must come to the surface of the sea to breathe. When it surfaces, it exhales air out of a blowhole in a cloud of pressurized vapour that rises vertically above the water for up to 9m.
Conservation of Blue Whales
These Whales are sadly now federally listed as endangered animals. This species was once abundant, however advances in whaling technology made it easier for people to hunt them. With the rise of factory ships, blue whale populations plummeted. They are now protected internationally by a moratorium on whaling, and their numbers are rising.
Ship noise, entanglement, and collisions may affect them in areas with high human activity, but occurrences of these events are become more and more rare. The effect that climate change will have on whales and saline in general is uncertain.
However, what is important to keep them protected is to continue creating awareness for them.
Have you ever wanted to see these Whales in the Wild for yourself?
Below are some tour operators we consider worthy of visiting to help you on your quest to see Blue Whales (and other Whales) in the wild!
Experience Giants is a tour group based in Timor Leste, Tonga, La Reunion and the Dominican Republic! The experience offered by Experience is that one must “be at eye level with the whale”. In fact, the tours allow adventurous explorers to swim with these amazing gentle giants.
‘Whale Watching Akureyri’ is based from Akureyri in North Iceland and has experiences a 100% sighting success in summer 2016 & 2017 & 2018!
Natural World Safaris enable individuals to travel and dive in the warm waters of Sri Lanka with these incredible creatures!
Have you enjoyed reading this blog about the Blue Whales? Read more about the fascinating whales around the world in our other blogs such as: Humpback Whales Sightings , Where to see Sperm Whales and more!