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Icelandic hunting vessels in port

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Whale in whaling station Iceland WDC

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Our climate report highlights dramatic impacts on whales and dolphins

Whales in hot water report cover

A new WDC report highlights the dramatic effect on whales and dolphins from climate change, including slowly boiling seas, shortage of prey and devastating mass death events.

The effects are also reducing the role these majestic ocean beings can play in helping to fight climate breakdown and are threatening multiple species with imminent extinction.

Whales in Hot Water, also looks at other threats to whale and dolphin populations from climate change, such as rapidly changing ocean environments causing species to turn on each other, toxins associated with algae blooms linked to climate change now regularly found in dead whales and dolphins, changes in behaviour that make them more vulnerable to being hit by passing ships, and weakening immune systems that make them more susceptible to disease.

For example, El Niño weather events, which are increasing in severity with climate change, are causing bottlenose dolphin populations to moved northward towards California, bringing them into areas of resident Californian harbour porpoises. Over the last 20 years, bottlenose dolphins have been increasing attacking, often fatally, their smaller cousins.

As the ocean warms and whales and dolphins are pushed to their limits, and moving to new areas, it creates an elevated risk of disease outbreak due to the increased stress causing lower immunity. 61% of disease outbreaks in whales and dolphins were recorded during times of increased sea surface temperature, which are projected to be longer and more frequent as climate change worsens.

We are calling for urgent moves to re-whale the ocean (increase whale and dolphin populations to help reach climate and biodiversity goals) before it is too late. A range of recommendations for governments and industry include, tackling the root cause of the climate crisis, taking urgent steps to reduce the number of whales and dolphins caught in fishing nets and gear (the biggest single threat to whales and dolphins), the creation of formal marine protected areas.

Dr Sylvia Earle, marine biologist, oceanographer and author, states in the report; ‘Whales and dolphins are offering a lifeline to us in the fight against climate change, and we must foster changes that return the favour by adapting our ocean activity to help them thrive. The world must see what stands to be lost if we continue to decimate their habitats, prey sources and health. I call upon those fortunate enough to be in a position of influence – be that, in the realm of governments or industry boardrooms – to take heed of the sound advice offered in this report and to urgently foster the conditions that allow a re-whaled ocean to help us all.’

We would like to say a massive thank you to our gaming partners, whose funding helped make this important report possible.

We are at COP28 fighting for whales and dolphins - take a look here