Little is known about the second largest animal on our planet and this is mostly due to their large size and the fact that they are found all over the world. Luckily for us, and for them, scientists have happened upon a non-invasive way of tracking and monitoring their movements and behaviour.
The Fin Whale, also known as finback whales, razorback or common rorqual, is found throughout the oceans of the world, ranging from the arctics to the tropics. They can grow up to 27m long and weigh up to 74 tonnes and are thus often mistaken for Sei, Minke or Bryde’s Whales. Because of their large habitat, it has been difficult to track them down, until now. What began many years ago as an effort to monitor seismic activity along the Juan de Fuca Ridge, has now provided valuable information about the travel patterns of the “Greyhounds of the Ocean”.
Along with picking up hundreds of tremors, the numerous seismometers recorded Fin Whale calls throughout the years. These recordings have now been used to map out roughly 154 Fin Whale paths by Dax Soule, a University of Washington doctoral student in Oceanography. He also discovered 3 categories of vocalizing whales that swam South in Winter and Spring (Northern Hemisphere) and a category of rogue whales that travelled North in early Autumn (Northern Hemisphere), travelling faster than the other groups.
Fin Whales have been listed as an endangered species and understanding their migration patterns and feeding habits will help to prevent situations like the Fin Whale carcass that washed up on a Seattle-area beach in Spring (Northern Hemisphere). In Iceland however, this would be the nice way out. A new trend in Iceland is to go on a whale watching tour out on the fjords and then enjoy some fresh whale meat on your return to land.
Tourists, mostly from England, are savouring the taste and adding to the demand for these inhumane killings. The whales are hunted with exploding harpoons which are not always accurate, leaving the animals to suffer for hours just to end up on the plate of a tourist. 52 Minke Whales were slaughtered last year and with a quota of 154 set for this year, there are fears that the endangered Fin Whale will also start to be hunted. The International Fund for Animal Welfare, having advocates like TV’s Bill Oddie and Icelandic representative, Sigursteinn Masson, is fighting hard to end the slaughter of these intelligent marine giants with its Meet Us Don’t Eat Us campaign.
Let us hope they succeed and their efforts will bring positive results to end this mindless cruelty.