RIGHT WHALES – Gulls

For years, Southern Right whales were endangered by commercial hunting. Today, the whales are facing a new threat– Seagulls. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Kim Marshall-Tilas is Director of Ocean Programs with the Whale Conservation Institute. She’s spent the last six winters on the coast of Argentina, where the whales share the shallow waters with a growing population of gulls.

“Usually, when the whales are resting at the surface, with their calves, in the sun, on the beach. This is when the gulls take the opportunity to peck at their backs, and as soon as the gull dives down and attacks the whale’s back, the whale immediately arches and goes “aargh!” and blows out strongly and then they’ll generally go underwater and swim away fast to try to flee it, or stay under the water. And what our studies showed was that the whales are spending twenty percent of their day fleeing gull attacks when they should be spending one hundred percent of their day, you know, resting and working with their babies, and playing and feeding. It’s natural for gulls to eat the skin of the whales when it comes off in the water, when they’re jumping, and playing. But this is a new behavior that we’ve noticed ever since 1985 and this has gotten worse until now. The biggest hazard from these gull attacks is that the whales will leave these safe breeding areas and calving areas. And if they leave these safe areas and go out more into the open areas, they’re definitely going to be more threats. There’s boats, there’s ships, there’s orcas, and also just the waves themselves, with the calves.”

Many trace the growing number of gulls in this region of Argentina to the presence of a large uncovered garbage dump nearby. Scientists hope that by covering the dump, they’ll limit the gull population and help save the Southern Right whales.

Additional funding for this Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Special thanks to Dr. Roger Payne and the Wildlife Conservation Society for the recordings of Right Whales heard on the “Deep Voices” album.

RIGHT WHALES - Gulls

Off the coast of Argentina, a growing population of sea gulls has become a threat to young Right whales.
Air Date:01/29/1999
Scientist:
Transcript:

For years, Southern Right whales were endangered by commercial hunting. Today, the whales are facing a new threat-- Seagulls. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Kim Marshall-Tilas is Director of Ocean Programs with the Whale Conservation Institute. She's spent the last six winters on the coast of Argentina, where the whales share the shallow waters with a growing population of gulls.

"Usually, when the whales are resting at the surface, with their calves, in the sun, on the beach. This is when the gulls take the opportunity to peck at their backs, and as soon as the gull dives down and attacks the whale's back, the whale immediately arches and goes "aargh!" and blows out strongly and then they'll generally go underwater and swim away fast to try to flee it, or stay under the water. And what our studies showed was that the whales are spending twenty percent of their day fleeing gull attacks when they should be spending one hundred percent of their day, you know, resting and working with their babies, and playing and feeding. It's natural for gulls to eat the skin of the whales when it comes off in the water, when they're jumping, and playing. But this is a new behavior that we've noticed ever since 1985 and this has gotten worse until now. The biggest hazard from these gull attacks is that the whales will leave these safe breeding areas and calving areas. And if they leave these safe areas and go out more into the open areas, they're definitely going to be more threats. There's boats, there's ships, there's orcas, and also just the waves themselves, with the calves."

Many trace the growing number of gulls in this region of Argentina to the presence of a large uncovered garbage dump nearby. Scientists hope that by covering the dump, they'll limit the gull population and help save the Southern Right whales.

Additional funding for this Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

Special thanks to Dr. Roger Payne and the Wildlife Conservation Society for the recordings of Right Whales heard on the "Deep Voices" album.