by Daelyn Fortney
Categories: Animals.
Photo: cc:

Commercial whaling is at the forefront of our thoughts due to the possible reversal of the moratorium on whale hunting at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting this month. Looking past the inhumane slaughter of innocent animals, another ding against industrial whaling has been revealed thanks to a study published in the British biological science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the study led by Australian biologists shows that Southern Ocean sperm whales are a key component in the fight against global warming. While it was previously believed that whales contributed to climate change due to the carbon dioxide which is released when they exhale, new data shows a bigger picture, one that includes the feces of the giant marine mammals.

Through fecal fertilization—which can be simply explained as whales pooping, the waste contains iron, the iron is used by marine plants near the ocean’s surface, and thanks to photosynthesis those plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere—the Southern Ocean sperm whales are, in a roundabout way, removing an estimated 400,000 metric tons of CO2 each year.

If we look at the numbers, the whales in the southern waters are said to release 200,000 metric tons of CO2 through respiration while their fecal fertilization removes 400,000 metric tons of CO2, leaving us with the overall elimination of 200,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. That 200,000 metric tons is equivalent to 41,841 passenger cars, according to the EPA.

An important note included in the study points out that prior to industrial whaling, those numbers could be multiplied by 10.

The report reminds us that, when left alone, everything on this planet works in an incredible synchronized system. When humans get involved—say through the mass slaughter of whales—things go awry and the system is thrown out of balance. One has to wonder where we would be with our climate change worries if we left the whales alone in the first place.

The fate of all whales will be determined through votes next week at the IWC’s annual meeting in Agadir, Morocco.

  • Kimitake Hiraoka

    Oh c’mon now, this is just getting silly…

    First it was their so-called “intelligence”, then their “beauty”, and now we’re to believe that our survival depends on their poop?

    I don’t think even Paul Watson would come up with something so absurd.

    • georgina0912

      No Kimitake, it is something far beyond their “poop” and also far beyond your simple-man comprehension.

      Go ahead, continue coming up with excuses to kill whales!

    • From MN, with hope…

      Well as hard as it is to believe there are actual scientists in this world, not the fake ones from the ICR. They made this report, and without any interference from any activist groups, and without whining about how low their ‘sample’ is.

      • Erik

        you mean they got to operate without any offered violence from terroristic thugs trying to enfore their views of the world on others acting lawfully? I sugest you prodice links and citations to support your idiotic evaluation of ICR scientists. You CONTINUE to be a world class idiot.

      • AnimuX

        And here we see the pro-whaling crowd attacking others on Ecorazzi once again – coincidentally, in response to an article that clearly demonstrates we do not need to kill whales to study them.

        What’s most amusing is the stalwart defense of the ICR scientists who have failed to get their lethal research proposals approved by the IWC scientific committee for reasons such as a lack of necessity (among many reasonable disputes over the validity of methods and premises).

        Of course, the ideological campaign to demonize and attack anyone who disapproves of whaling is not a scientific mission either.

      • Erik

        an attack ? good heavens!! where?
        You continue to spreead your garbage. Inside the IWC, anti-whaling say there is no need, yet concede for overall ojectivity, age and sexual status data are needed. That requires lethal sampling. Your continuing assertions that their permits are denied is pure bs, and you know it, I think you actually believe no one will look up anything to refute your garbage.
        your “among many reasonable disputes over the validity of methods and premises” simply shows you to ignore that which does not confor to the point you are trying to make. All it does is show that you have no integrity and lie nearly as quick as watson will.
        Of course, your whole premise on this posting was to DEFLECT one statement asking “you mean they got to operate without any offered violence from terroristic thugs trying to enfore their views of the world on others acting lawfully”
        and try to say it’s a personal attack.
        The most amusing part of this entire discussion? The way that the terrorist supporters will lie to preserve their agenda.

      • From MN, with hope…

        I mean to say that there are scientists out there who aren’t killing whales, and who aren’t being opposed by as you call ‘terrorist thugs’ because what they’re doing is legit, and obviously for the benefit of the whales. It isn’t disputed about whether or not its legit or not, and since they aren’t killing the whales, than they get no opposition. Still, there is little need for lethal ‘research’ in this modern world. And if they do need to delve into the cadaver, than find some beached whales like they used to, or get legit scientists to go out and kill the whale, but dump the remains back into the ocean, or pack them for study, not the commercially-driven type Japan is doing. And again, the IWC is a voluntary program, why Japan still is in it, I have no idea. If they were to leave than they would be able to kill as many whales as they wish.

      • AnimuX

        Tsk Tsk Erik. A bit of both Commission and Committee in the quotes following…

        “there was considerable disagreement over the value of this research both within the Scientific Committee and the Commission. As in previous years, there was severe disagreement within the Committee regarding advice that should be provided on a number of issues, including: the relevance of the proposed research to management, appropriate sample sizes and applicability of alternate (non-lethal) research methods.”

        “In 2005 a Resolution was passed (30 votes to 27 votes with 1 abstention) that strongly urged the Government of Japan to withdraw its JARPA II proposal or to revise it so that any information needed to meet the stated objectives of the proposal is obtained using non-lethal means. Japan withdrew a proposed resolution in favour of the research programmes.”

        “In 2007 the Commission passed a Resolution asking Japan to refrain from issuing a permit for JARPA II by 40 votes in favour, 2 votes against and 1 abstention; 27 countries decided not to participate in the vote as they believed that the submission of the proposal was not conducive to building bridges within the Commission.”

        “There was considerable disagreement within the Committee over most aspects of this research programme, including objectives, methodology, likelihood of success and effect on stocks. ”

        “In 2000, the Commission adopted a Resolution by majority strongly urging Japan to reconsider issuing the permit. It adopted a similar Resolution in 2001. A further Resolution was passed in 2003″

        “Concern was also expressed that with the sample size and methods proposed, it was unlikely that several of the objectives of the programme would be met, especially with respect to sperm whales. They commented that the ecosystem modelling approach was poorly developed and that the likely precision of any fisheries information (both past data and future) was poor. “

  • Malcolm Green

    Trying to make a scapegoat of today’s whaling nations for actions of whaling nations in previous centuries is lame.

    Today’s whaling nations are catching whales in such conservative numbers that the 99%+ whales that they aren’t catching are still filling the oceans with poop every year.

    But good on the Australian scientists who are seemingly milking somebody for their research grants.

  • Lyla

    Our survival depends on their role in the ecosystem.
    As living creautures, we all rely on eachother to survive. Many people are upset by ocean pollution and overfishing because it means less fish for them to eat. And they’re right.
    Sometimes, however, one species becomes too fragile to be hunted. Baleen whales are such species. They were almost driven into extinction, yet they managed to survive, only to have their existence threatened once again. Poor things just can’t catch a break.
    And for the record, whales are indisputably intelligent, though the extent of their “beauty” differs from person to person.

    • Kimitake Hiraoka

      Actually no, whales are not “indisputably intelligent”. In fact, there is not a shred of scientific evidence that demonstrates any such heightened intelligence.

      It’s possible that carnivorous species such as the dolphin and orca have greater intellectual capacity due to their need to hunt food. But baleen feeders like those being hunted by Japan, Norway and Iceland are oceanic vacuum cleaners with no need for intelligence and have small brains. Like cows and sheep.

      In any event, intelligence isn’t really a valid measure of the sanctity of life when you think about it. It’s just another feeble attempt to justify the prohibition on whaling after whale stocks recovered and made the moratorium redundant.

      • georgina0912

        Kimitake, do you eat anything that you consider intelligent?

        Besides, that “intelligence” test animals go through so that humans can figure out how smart certain species are is nothing but a standard set by arrogant humans who think we are the most intelligent species ever to walk the earth. Who says that if us, humans, are left to our own devices we would not starve and die because we lack that intelligence to survive? There is a lot to be said about those skills, which we do not have, but animals do.

      • Erik

        I’m glad you agree, they are NOT intelligent by human measurement, but then again, intelligence has NOTHING to do with actions taken for or against an animal. Ants? so social, industrious, vermin to be wiped out with any pesticide, same for termites. Pigs? MEASURABLY intelligent, many MANY studies done on them. footballs to baby back ribs… Dogs in Korea, cats in Indo-China. You do not get to project YOUR anthropomorphization on animals as an excuse to save or eradicate. As one of those “arrogant” humans, when bambi leans how to manufacture devices to protect itself, I’ll advance my capability of taking it out of the picture for MY use. Man’s devices have enabled MAN to advance over ALL OTHER animals. You seem to want to allow for the animals inate devices yet deny mankinds advances in adapting, devising, and making devices to give itself the superiority.
        Again, you pick and choose

      • georgina0912

        And we both picked and chose, however, i chose to leave animals alone and to stop creating excuses to “use” them. Respect and compassion for living creatures is what drives my decisions, and the realization that i do not need to eat them or wear or test on them to advance myself.

      • Erik

        good for you… the majority of the world says you’re half brain dead, but that’s your choice to inflict on yourself, you don’t get to enforce your views on others. The world EATS animals, if the animal, no matter what it is, is being used in a sustainable manner, you have ZIP to say about it.
        As far as your assumption that you don’t need the research gleaned from animal studies….
        that just shows how far your brain rot has gone.

      • georgina0912

        Is this how vile meat eaters are?

        Grow up Erik, just seriously, grow up. Am i pushing my views on anyone? No, so you are making no sense at all.

  • Sea Cucumber

    I suppose I’ll get bashed just for coming in here, but in all seriousness, I would actually question how much bias there was on the part of the Australian scientists. If this were true, I’d like to see it get verified by teams from other countries to show that this was not a case of bias and plan out-and-out whale-sympathy.

    On the other hand, can you imagine sitting in a room full of scientists all sitting around and dreaming stuff up, and all of a sudden, a hand shoots skyward, and then the owner of the hand says “it’s the poop, we have to study the poop!” It would be pretty funny. I’m willing to be open-minded, but again, it would have to be verified by other nation’s scientists.

    • The Infidel

      There, there. I’m sure the Institute of Cetacean Research is already working on a proper procedure for cutting open whales to study their poop. We’re an intelligent species, after all.

      • georgina0912

        If you are talking about them making up more excuses to go out and kill whales i am sure someone will come up with that one. Just a matter of time.

  • Whitefish

    Kimitake, just little correction to your misguided statement about rorquals.

    From “Total Neocortical Cell Number in the Mysticete Brain” by Nina Eriksen and Bente Pakkenberg of the University of Copenhagen published in Scientific American:

    “The frontal lobes of the dolphin brain are comparatively smaller than in other mammals, but the researchers found that the neocortex of the Minke whale was surprisingly thick. The whale neocortex is thicker than that of other mammals and roughly equal to that of humans (2.63 mm). However, the layered structure of the whale neocortex is known to be simpler than that of humans and most other mammals. In particular, whales lack cortical layer IV, and thus have five neocortical layers to humankind’s six. This means that the wiring of connections into and out of the neocortex is much different in whales than in other mammals. The researchers’ cellular census revealed that the total number of neocortical neurons in the Minke whale was 12.8 billion. This is 13 times that of the rhesus monkey and 500 times more than rats, but only 2/3 that of the human neocortex. What can account for the fact that whales have bigger brains — and similarly thick neocortexes — but fewer neurons? Eriksen and Pakkenberg found that there were 98.2 billion non-neuronal cells, called glia, in the Minke whale neocortex. This is the highest number of glial cells in neocortex seen in any mammal studied to date. The ratio of neocortical glial cells to neocortical neurons is 7.7 to 1 in Minke whales and only 1.4 to 1 in humans. This finding may indicate a tendency for larger glia/neuron ratios as brain mass increases to support the growing neurons. But when one considers other recent research revealing that glia play an important role in information processing (see “The Other Half of the Brain,” fromn Sci. Am. April 2004), one is left to wonder. ”

    So to say minke just have the intelligence of a cow is just misleading. Another ICR disinformation campaign and you play into it like their little pawn.

    • Erik

      I guess you cannot read either?
      zero info…simple speculation on the studdy of a brain in isolation. Until the facts are produced…one can equate them to any other animal.

      You really need to start READING the info instead of taking the title as fact.

      • From MN, with hope…

        How is there zero info in there? Obviously again you aren’t reading it. It says, paraphrased, that minke whales are smarter than humans may think. How is that zero info? If the study is wrong, than how do you truly study the capacity of the whales brain properly not with it in isolation?

      • Erik

        yo… dimwit idiot…
        are nothing… ZERO CONTENT. Those are only inferences, possibilities that MIGHT emerge when studies are done. Until a study is done, it is pure speculation… read GUESS

        go read how studies were done with bottlenose… THAT is the type studies you need to support your assertions.

    • David

      So a Minke whale that is about 70 times the size of a human has a neocortex of the same size and only 2/3rds as many neocortical neurons. Although size isn’t a direct measure of intelligence it would seem that an animal that is 70 times as large as a human would naturally have a larger brain, yet Minke whales don’t.

      • georgina0912

        Being an intelligent species has no correlation to the size of the brain. If our brains are so big and wonderful, allowing us so much processing prowess, why is it so hard for us to devise ways to delve into the minds of other animals (nevermind our own)? To me, this is a perfect example of scientists in need of finding an appropriate test with which to peer into an animal’s abilities.

        Put yourself in another creature’s pair of shoes, or hoofs, or whatever and have them test our intelligence according to their standards. We would probably rate pretty low, and with no fur to protect us from the cold, or fangs or claws to kill animals, we are pretty much doa.

        You are probably are going to kill that one simply because it is easier to continue trying to be the dominating species on this planet than to even consider the what ifs.

      • David

        But you see that is part of the reason we do dominate other species. Humans don’t need fur or fangs or claws. Humans have what others don’t high intelligence, which makes up for not having fur or fangs or claws.

        Are there any other species that have been able to not just survive but expand in so many diverse climates and ecosystems?

      • AnimuX

        David does bring up a valid point. Human intelligence and technology have enabled human beings to survive in ways that nature did not intend for any other form of life.

        However, the problems created by our use of technology is, in fact, quite relevant to the topic of this article. The topic, of course, is that scientific research has revealed that whales play a role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere while fertilizing the ocean. By supporting the base of the food web whales help to sustain themselves and other species. It’s another example of species interdependence.

        The article also suggests that when we use our technology to destroy large numbers of these massive whales the entire ecosystem is negatively affected. Removing too many whales could result in a trophic cascade through the food web as well as other unforeseen consequences.

        However, science has also learned a great deal about whales in recent years (particularly dolphins and orcas) and the research suggests intellectual capacity that has led some scientists to argue for special rights for cetaceans. Biological evidence to support this has even been found in humpback whales which have cells recognized by scientists as responsible for emotion, empathy, social organization, speech and intuition.

      • Whitefish

        So the argument is that an animal must demonstrate greater intelligence than a human based on a human derived scale, otherwise intelligence should play absolutely no role in whether we hunt them?

        David, what don’t you understand about the researcher’s findings that minke have 13x’s more neocortex neurons than a rhesus monkey. Now remember it was Kimitake that said this:

        “Actually no, whales are not “indisputably intelligent”. In fact, there is not a shred of scientific evidence that demonstrates any such heightened intelligence. ”

        Not a shred Kimitake?

      • David

        Well Whitefish your side is the ones who keep saying whales shouldn’t be hunted because of their intelligence. So your side is the ones who say intelligence should be used as a criteria. Of course you can’t seem to decide where the line is where an animal is too intelligent to be eaten, or even how to measure animal intelligence.

        And yes there is not a shred of scientific evidence that demonstrates any such heightened intelligence. The structure of its brain is not proof of any level of intelligence.

  • don miguelo

    At least the whales being full of sh*t is helping the planet, what’s you’re excuse, Kimitake Hiraoka?

    • Kimitake Hiraoka

      Haha I’ll give you that one.

  • Cho cho ma

    Its not simply a matter of if whales are smart or not, it is a matter of animal cruelty.

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