Whales: The breathtaking and the breath-giving aquatic giants of the world

Whales: The breathtaking and the breath-giving aquatic giants of the world

Has it even once occurred to you that you owe a whale for every breath that you inhale?

Well, the answer is simple and quite mesmerizing, because as a matter of fact, we do owe whales for the clean air that we breathe. If it weren’t for these aquatic creatures, our lungs would be choking for breath and we would probably be knocking on the gates of heaven. 

Whales are dearly loved by ocean fans across the world for their special personalities, soul-stirring song and sheer size. Yet, few people understand the crucial role, these oceanic wonders play in promoting ocean health and mitigating the effects of climate change.

According to a study conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whales, absorb carbon that is sequestered out of the atmosphere, in their bodies throughout their prolonged lives. When they die, they descend to the base of the ocean, taking the carbon with them. This absorbed carbon is removed from the atmospheric cycle for hundreds to thousands of years, which is why we shockingly call it the “literal carbon sink”. The team of marine biologists realized that, each great whale sequesters about 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide on a rough estimate. To put this finding in perspective, a tree throughout the same period hardly donates to 3 per cent of the carbon accumulation of the whale (Stone, 2019). 

Another investigation published in 2010 roughly calculated that eight kinds of aquatic mammals, including blue, humpback, and minke whales, collectively take nearly 30,000 tons of carbon into the sea every year as their corpses sink. If great whale communities recovered to their pre-commercial whaling size, the writers estimate this carbon sink would intensify by 160,000 tons a year. This is certainly why these gargantuan creatures are called the evolutionary wonders of the sea (Stone, 2019). 

It has also come to light that whales are key players in encouraging the growth of phytoplankton. These mini wandering creatures responsibly create every second breath we inhale by imprisoning 40% of the world's CO2 and giving out at least 50% of oxygen to the air. "At a minimum, even a one percent rise in phytoplankton production, thanks to whale action would imprison hundreds of millions of tons of extra CO2 a year, which is equal to the instant appearance of two billion grown trees," the IMF study finds. 

Whales encourage the growth of phytoplankton in two major manners. The motion of whales propels nutrients from the base of the sea to the surface, which supplies food for phytoplankton and other aquatic life. The other manner in which these remarkable wonders of the ocean help with capturing carbon is through their poop. "It becomes apparent that whales' fecal matter carries exactly the materials — particularly iron and nitrogen — phytoplankton wants to grow," per the examination. Yes, you read that right. Whale poop might be the easy solution to global warming we've been longing for.

Whales can give us a number of reasons to be happy; however human beings can give us just one reason to be extremely unhappy, by putting the world’s whales at risk, which directly affects a whale’s capability to help us control climate change. Even if commercial whaling has been formally prohibited since 1986, more than 1,000 whales a year are still terminated for commercial motives, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). They are also threatened by ship strikes, fishing nets and plastic contamination (Lux, 2019). 

Simultaneously, the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the air is increasing quickly. During May 2019, the amounts of CO2 passed 415 parts per million – the highest amount in human history. Therefore, it is of vital importance that the world begins rooting for these majestic creatures’ protection. If the required steps are taken to secure their survival, whales will pursue to prosper as marvelous beings, and as noteworthy assets to the health of the world’s climate and ocean. So, we all need to rescue the whales, because the whales can rescue us! 

By Nathasha Hindurangala


Stone, M. (2019). How much is a whale worth?. Retrieved 24 May 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/09/how-much-is-a-whale-worth/

Lux, H. (2019). Whales are vital to curb climate change - this is the reason why. Retrieved 24 May 2020, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/11/whales-carbon-capture-climate-change/

Image Reference
Cover Photo : Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash