A number of blue whales have been sighted off the Atlantic coast in Spain, marking the species’ return after 40 years of absence to these waters.
What is Happening?
- Blue whales are returning to Spain after more than 40 years of absence, as a number of the species have been sighted off the Atlantic coast of Galicia in the northwest region of Spain.
- Since 2017, there’ve been four sightings of three different blue whales in the area with the most recent reported sighting on August 19 by the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute (BDRI).
- At least one blue whale has been spotted every year since the species’ re-appearance. 2020 also saw the return of the same two whales from 2018 and 2019.
- The largest animal on the planet, blue whales can grow as long as 100 feet long and up to 200 tons in weight. Unfortunately, the species is currently considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (IUCN) due to years of commercial whaling.
- Spain in particular, had a centuries-old whaling industry and numerous whaling ports scattered throughout its coasts including a dozen in Galicia. While the International Whaling Commission was established back in 1966, Spain did not adopt a whaling ban until 1986, which severely impacted the blue whale population to the point of near extinction.
- Signs of recovery may be evident after decades as blue whales have been spotted and “[returned] to forage in the rich Galician waters,” as the BDRI celebrates in an Instagram post.
- However, not everyone is optimistic about the return of blue whales in the Spanish waters. Alfredo López, a marine biologist at a Galician NGO explains: “I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat.”
- López claims that blue whales never venture south of the equator, which means their current presence in the Galician coast may be a sign that global warming is pushing the line north and reducing blue whales’ habitat. He adds if the sightings “mean the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
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