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Gray whales – Why we must protect them

Gray whales  - Written by S. Alexandra Talbot
Somewhere between black and white there is gray ... somewhere between the depths of the ocean and the surf that undulates with the blanketing waves of the ocean the Gray whale glides silently, forcefully.

We, you and I, cannot live in silence nor can we live without the forceful courage of our convictions when it concerns the stability, safety, and protection of our wildlife. Henry David Thoreau said, "In wildness is the preservation of the world," and that preservation of "wildness" is inextricably woven into our lives.

They are the aquatic giants that move with grace and ease. They can live to a hearty age of 75+: they are hefty - weighing as much as 40 tons - and they "stand" as long as 50 feet. Mother gray whales carry their calves for 12 - 13 months, and once the calf has been born, it will take from 6 to 12 years to fully mature. Their heritage dates back to a geological era more than 30 million years ago but it is for us to preserve their heritage, their lives. It is as Jeffrey McNeely says, "Every time we lose a species we break a life chain which has evolved over 3.5 billion years."

Atlantic Gray whale considered extinct
The Atlantic Gray Whale is considered extinct. In all probability it is because of man's whaling even though these whales carried the moniker of "Devil Fish" for retaliating against our hunting and killing them.

There is some encouraging news - however slight. After centuries of whaling in the North Atlantic waters and the subsequent non-existence of gray whales, they may reintroduce themselves into the Atlantic and Mediterranean, as one was sighted twice - once off Israel in May and off Spain in June 2010.

Pacific Gray whales
In the Pacific coastal waters of California they are endangered. Gray whales meander between the coastal regions of Alaska and Mexico; and, the female grays give birth to their calves in the more southern regions where they migrate during the winter. But, make no mistake: their lives are in peril. All too often, gray whales are strangled in our fishing nets in ever increasing numbers, especially mothers and their calves.

Seismic research
Underwater seismic research is yet another threat to their survival. Such research triggers "high-intensity sound pluses" which gravely interfere with the whales feeding habits, as well as with their teaching their calves how to feed in shallows. However, studies into the migratory habits and routes of Gray whales are being conducted to safeguard them by finding the least disruptive and least intrusive ocean-bed areas for this research.




Western Gray whales - On the brink of extinction
In eastern Russia, Gray whales number around 130 and of those only 20 are female: they are frighteningly endangered and their survival is further threatened there by Russia's intent to find additional oil sources through its seismic "assessments," assessments which pose extreme oceanic environmental threats to an already tenuous gray whale population. Although the threat and its alarming outcome may be directly accountable to only a small number of individuals, the Neanderthal thinking and potential actions of such individuals is ominous and a precursor to going from endangerment to extinction.

Pierce Brosnan's said "We owe it to our children to be better stewards of the environment. The alternative: - a world without whales. It's too terrible to imagine:" This may be a simplification of what could happen, but it is, nonetheless, a reality that should never be realized.

Climatic and environmental effects in the Arctic waters - a perennial food-base for the Gray whale - are also creating drastic losses in their food supply. These losses diminish food sources from which Gray whales are suffering dearly. And, their physical suffering becomes our ecological suffering because they are unable to sustain the eco-balance that they give to our oceans.

The spectra of our lives - past, present, and future - are many times reflected in the ways in which we value, care for, treat, and respect every creature that shares in our existence. We may not be able to reach out and touch them, but our actions immeasurably touch their lives and their future. It is as Mother Teresa said, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."