Blue Whales: A Big Problem in LA’s Ports
The number of blue whales near Los Angeles ports is growing rapidly and conservationists are worried for their safety. The whales come to Los Angeles Harbor to feed on krill, a staple of the whale’s diet, from May to December. Researchers are concerned as this is a high traffic area (to be expected at the largest port in the US) and the number of whales feeding in the harbor is “the area of densest concentration close to shore in all of California” according to researcher John Calambokidis.
Not surprisingly, sightseers are coming to witness this incredible sight. “While this is a unique and exciting opportunity to have these animals out there, it also puts them at great risk,” said Calambokidis. The krill feast happens to be right in the middle of a major shipping route, setting the whales up for disaster.
In 2007, four blue whales were killed when struck by ships off of the coast of Santa Barbara. This prompted wildlife officials to begin seeking out the location of blue whales by air, noting their coordinates, and notifying ships traveling in the area of their location in the hopes that they will lower their speeds and avoid a collision with a whale.
Calambokidis believes the whales may meet a similar fate in the LA ports if proactive measures are not taken to protect them, and has led efforts to tag whales with GPS tracking devices. How, exactly, does one approach tagging a huge whale? Using an inflatable motorboat, researchers place a transmitter roughly the size of a shoe on the back of a whale using a long pole – this can be accomplished when the animal comes to the surface. They GPS trackers are bright orange in color, which makes it easy for researchers to find the trackers when they fall off (most fall off twenty-four hours later).