Sperm Whales, Oil, & the Gulf of Mexico

A native population of about 1400 endangered sperm whales live in the Gulf of Mexico year-round. They range from the Florida panhandle to Texas, swimming along the edge of the continental shelf. According to National Geographic, the BP drilling disaster may seriously endanger the long-term survival of this native group.Whales, like dolphins use sounds to communicate with each other across great distances. They are also very inquisitive and have been observed near oil platforms. Click here for a youtube video of a sperm whale investigating a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) installing oil equipment on the sea bottom. They also use echo-location to search for food. Their favorite meal is giant squid that live in the dark depths of Gulf canyons. Click here to see amazing photos of a whale feasting on a squid. The Gulf sperm whale population is also endangered, with a recovery plan that estimates that any more than three mortalities annually caused by intractions with humans (or their oil drilling activites) will threaten the ability of the population to be rebuilt.Will whales know to avoid the oil slick on the surface or the subsurface oil plumes from the BP well? How will the dispersants affect the whales and their prey?Click here to learn more about sperm whales interaction with the offshore oil industry.Ellis Pickett is GRN’s Texas Campaign Organizer

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