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🇬🇧 World Dolphin and Whale Day by Rachelle Dalpe


Photo Danique Brouwer (Whale) / Photo Katrin Kroiss (Meet Your Tour Guide Mx)/ (Dolphin)

 

Why do we celebrate this special day? Well the World Whale and Dolphin Day was established in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission. This day is celebrated on July 23 as it marks the same date in 1982 when the members of the Commission voted for a complete ban on commercial whaling. They found the earliest forms of whaling dated back to at least 3000 BC, Coastal communities around the world have long histories of the use of cetaceans. Despite the ban on commercial whaling and international trade of whale products there are still three countries: Iceland, Japan and Norway who continue illegal commercial whale hunting. There is an estimated minimum of 300,000 whales and dolphins that are killed each year for commercial purposes, fisheries by catch and habitat loss.


Photo Marine Connection (Dolphin) / Photo John Law Review Reporter (Beluga's)

 

In the 1960s they started the captivity of orcas and dolphins, they were caught as juveniles and moved into tanks to be trained for our entertainment. Companies like SeaWorld claim that keeping captive cetaceans allows scientists and the public to learn more about them unlike when observing them in the wild but regardless that's not their native home and it's not fair for any animal to be locked up unless they are ill and getting help. There are more than 2,100 dolphins and whales being held in captivity at 343 facilities in 63 countries around the world. That's still a very high number for these poor animals, hopefully one day the hunting and captivity will end so far the Countries that have banned dolphin and whale captivity are:

-United states: California, New York, South Carolina, Hawaii -Other countries: Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, India, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Switzerland and Canada.

Dolphins and whales are known as Cetaceans that means they are mammals who live in water and cannot survive out of the water. They originated about 50 million years ago in the Eocene epoch. There are currently 90 recognised species of whales and dolphins, in Mexico there are 37 different living species of cetaceans.

There are 42 dolphin species in the world, and 9 incredible species of dolphins here in Mexico, a few of them are:

- Bottlenose dolphin - Clymene dolphin - Atlantic spotted dolphin - Fraser dolphin - Pantropical spotted dolphin -Risso’s dolphin - Rough toothed dolphin -Spinner dolphin - Striped dolphin

The most common dolphin to see in Mexico is the dolphin found in all coastal waters.

Photos by Katrin Kroiss (Meet Your Tour Guide Mx) / (Bottlenose Dolphins)

 

There are around 40 different species of whales and there are 2 types of whales, baleen and toothed. The difference between them is how they feed and what they have inside their mouths. Baleen whales have baleen plates or sheets which filter prey from seawater, they mostly eat krill, plankton and small fish. Tooth whales have teeth and they hunt fish, squid and other sea creatures. There are only 14 baleen whale species and 76 species of toothed whales. This includes the 42 species of dolphins, and if you didn't know dolphins are actually classified as whales. Toothed whales consist of 10 families including dolphins they hunt using echolocation and are very sociable they usually are always in groups known as pods. Baleen whales have 4 families, they are usually found alone or in small groups and they do not echolocate unlike the toothed whales.



Grey Whale “Ballen” / Beluga Whale “Toothed”

Photos by @Getty Images

 

The most common whales to see in Mexico are the Pacific gray whale which is seen more in the Pacific coast. The humpback whale which is mostly found in the Gulf of California. The blue whale is mostly seen in Baja California Sur and the killer whales are typically seen in Cabo San Lucas.


Gray whale Photo by Welles14 / WikiCommons

 

Marine mammals such as whales and dolphins spend their entire lives at sea, when do they sleep? How do they sleep and not drown? Well they have discovered 2 methods of how they sleep, they rest quietly in the water either vertically or horizontally or they sleep while swimming slowly next to another animal this method is more like napping.



Photo by Stenella longirostris (Spinner dolphins sleeping/swimming) / Photo: by Nadia Aly (Sperm whales sleeping)

 

Dolphins mostly sleep at night for only a couple hours at a time, they are often active late at night using that time to feed on fish or squid . Bottlenose dolphins only shut down half of their brain along with the opposite eye, the other half of the brain stays awake with a low level of alertness. This side is used to watch for predators, obstacles and other animals, also it signals when to rise to the surface for a fresh breath of air. Then around 2 hours later the dolphin will reverse this process to rest the active side of the brain and awaking the rested half this pattern is called cat-napping. To avoid drowning while sleeping its crucial that marine mammals have control of their blowhole. The blowhole is a flap of skin that opens and closes under the control of the animal. Humans can breathe while their mind is asleep unlike a dolphin or whale most researchers believe that in order to breathe they must be alert to recognize that its blowhole is at the surface. They are equipped with a voluntary respiratory system which means they must keep one part of the brain alert to trigger each breath while sleeping.


Humpback whale photo by Fredrik Christiansen / Bottlenose dolphin photo by Discovery Cove

 

Young whales and dolphins actually rest, eat and sleep while their mother swims, a placement called echelon swimming as the mother tows them along in her slipstream. The mother will also sleep on the move, an interesting fact is that she cannot stop swimming for the first weeks of a newborn's life. If she does the calf will begin to sink, calves are not born with enough body fat to float easily. Baby dolphins and whales are called calves, they usually stick with their mothers for around 3-6 years. During that time the calves must learn how to live, catch their prey, avoid dangers and how to find their way around. Like humans dolphins and whales are warm-blooded mammals who nurse their young feeding them milk for about the first 6 months of their lives.

Photo By Katrin Kroiss (Meet Your Tour Guide Mx) / (Bottlenose Dolphin)

 

A group of dolphins and a group of whales is called a pod. Dolphins and whales are social mammals that interact with one another, protect each other, swim together and hunt their food together as a team. Swimming in a pod plays a very important role in protecting dolphins and whales from predators such as sharks. Most pods can have up to 2-30 mammals depending on the species and the situation makes attacks much harder on them compared if they were alone.

Fun Dolphin Facts:

  • There are currently 42 species of Dolphins and seven species of porpoises.

  • Dolphins are marine mammals which means they must surface to breathe air

  • The largest dolphin is an Orca “killer whale” and the smallest is the Maui & Hector dolphin.

  • A dolphins pregnancy last’s between 9 and 16 months, she feeds her offspring on milk.

  • Dolphins eat squid, crustaceans and fish, they don't chew the food but break them into smaller pieces before swallowing.

  • Dolphins have conical shaped teeth, they also have a different amount of teeth depending on the species, Risso dolphin has 14 but a spinner dolphin can have up to 240.

  • Dolphins have a well developed communication and echolocation system by vocalisations such as clicks, whistles and squeals.

  • A dolphins life span varies around 20 years for the smaller dolphin species and to 80 years or more for lager dolphins such as orcas.

  • The fastest dolphin is the dall’s porpoises, they can reach speeds up to 56kph 2(35mph).

Fun whale facts:

  • The blue whale is the largest animal that ever lived.

  • Male humpback whales mostly found in the US waters sing complex songs in the winter time for breeding in the waters of Hawaii and the Caribbean and can last up to 20 minutes and be heard from miles away.

  • Some species of whales are the longest lived mammals. Scientists estimate bowhead whales found in the Arctic can live more than 200 years.

  • Beluga whales have very flexible necks allowing them to move their heads unlike other whales.

  • The mighty sperm whale is the largest toothed whale.

  • The minke whale is the smallest baleen whale in the North American waters.

  • Sperm whales are almost driven to extinction due to commercial whalers.

  • A cuvier’s beaked whale made the deepest & longest dive ever recorded for cetaceans, reached a depth of 1.9 miles (2,992 m) and stayed submerged for more than 2 hours.

  • Northern Atlantic right whales eat small organisms near the water surface, straining sea water with their long baleen plates, the surface feeding behavior and buoyancy make them vulnerable to collisions.

  • The fastest whale is a fin whale they can reach speeds up to 37kph (23mph).

Bottlenose dolphin in action Photos Katrin Kroiss (Meet Your Tour Guide Mx)

 

Dolphins are incredible, they are so smart, friendly, playful and socially skilled they also share many emotional similarities with humans they even seem to enjoy our company as well. With all the different species of dolphins they all have their own unique identities and characteristics. We have saltwater and freshwater dolphins “Ocean dolphins & River dolphins”. We currently have 38 species of ocean dolphins that inhabit all the world's oceans. As for river dolphins there are currently 4 species that live in the rivers of South America and Asia. We are so lucky to have these beautiful animals roam the oceans but unfortunately they are not still as protected as we wish. The Maui Dolphins are the most endangered dolphins in the world there are less than 50 left.

Humpback whale in action photo: University of St Andrews.

 

Whales roam through all of the world's oceans and they communicate with complex and mysterious sounds. Whales are at the top of the food chain, they actually have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment. Whales capture carbon from the atmosphere, each great whale has an estimate of 33 tons of CO2 on average they help part of the fight against climate change. But unfortunately these amazing qualities do not protect them. The fin whale, killer whale, cray whale, beluga whale, right whale, bowhead whale, blue whale, sei whale and sperm whale are classified as endangered or vulnerable even after decades of protection.

Orca whale photo by BBC


Orca whales are also known as killer whales but they are actually dolphins since they are toothed whales but both whales and dolphins belong to the same group cetaceans ‘toothed whales’. Baby orcas stay with their maternal family for life .The orca whale is the biggest dolphin.


Photo of Blue whale by BBC


The blue whale is the largest animal to ever have lived on earth, despite being so massive this giant is a baleen whale and feeds on some of the smallest marine life. Blue whales are graceful swimmers they cruise the ocean around 9km/h and can go as fast as 30km/h they can grow up to 27 M in length and weigh 150,000 KG as much as 33 elephants.

Let's continue to save our oceans and save our animals, support the captivation band hunting of whales and dolphins to help them live a longer and healthier life.

No water, no life. No blue, no green.

We know that when we protect our oceans we’re protecting our future.


Thank you,

Rachelle Dalpe


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