A rare and unique population of Bryde’s whale that live in the Gulf of Mexico may be awarded greater protection after US authorities opened up a small area of their habitat in the DeSoto Canyon off the Florida Panhandle for oil drilling operations.
Even though Bryde’s whales are found in tropical waters across the globe, this population is thought to be genetically separate. The whales were only recently discovered and there are thought to be maybe less than 50 or so in the group.
As well as the potential for pollution, increased noise and collisions with boats also pose a threat to the whales. Last month, the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced it was considering giving the whales endangered or threatened status. If the whales are granted this new recognition, regulators would need to establish critical habitat protection and take further measures to consider their conservation needs them before any drilling-related activities could start.