Extreme Arctic weather hurts minke whales, researchers say

Written by Becca Manoso, CNN We’ve known for a while that melting ice and snow is making the world’s oceans more hospitable for marine life. At least, it appeared that way for marine biologists…

Extreme Arctic weather hurts minke whales, researchers say

Written by Becca Manoso, CNN

We’ve known for a while that melting ice and snow is making the world’s oceans more hospitable for marine life.

At least, it appeared that way for marine biologists trying to keep track of the thriving population of minke whales (Acromiocetes ) – the ones you see in the ocean – that have been moving north through the Arctic Circle in increasing numbers in recent years.

Now, though, a major global study conducted by researchers from more than 100 institutions across the world finds that Arctic populations of the whales have experienced a 10% population loss. The whales have gone from being thriving communities to on the verge of extinction, the report says.

The demise was the result of a variety of factors, researchers say, including changing currents and increased nutrient availability in the water. In this region, where the poles collide in March, the weight of the meltwater has pulled the ice further south, exposing the harbor seals and walruses that eat fish that the whales eat.

Because of that, the whales that used to stay south in the waters of the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea have migrated north — helping to rebalance the local ecosystem as far north as the Pacific Northwest.

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“I think the main concern is that what we’re seeing is that changes in the food web are creating potential trouble for other species in the food web,” said Ronald Utt, one of the study’s authors. “Trophic (layer) collapse in turn could ultimately be the end of the whale species in the Arctic.”

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