Anti-Whaling Australia Threatens Whales
By Global Warming
By Dr Gideon Polya
19 January, 2010
Australia leads the world in condemnation of the annual killing of 1,000 whales by the Japanese. However Australia is the world’s worst annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) polluter and man-made global warming with consequent loss of Antarctic sea ice is a major threat to declining krill stocks and hence to the whales that feed on krill.
Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superba) are small crustaceans (4-5 cm in length) that feed on phytoplankton found under the surface of sea ice. They are a major food source for penguins, seals and whales in the Antarctic. . Krill belong to the animals that make up the ocean zooplankton (small animals) that feed on ocean phytoplankton (photosynthesizing ocean algae) and are very abundant in Antarctic waters due to the great upwellings of nutrient-rich deep waters at the Antarctic convergence. [1, 2].
The Antarctic Convergence (Antarctic Polar Front or "Polar Front" for short), is a curving zone continuously encircling Antarctica where cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet and mix with the relatively warmer waters of the sub-Antarctic. Cold Antarctic waters sink beneath sub-Antarctic waters, while associated zones of mixing and upwelling create a nutrient-rich zone very high in marine biological productivity, especially for Antarctic krill. .
Stocks of krill in Antarctica have decreased by as much as 80% since the 1970s, this being associated with a fall in the amount of sea ice in the winter months, notably in the Antarctic Peninsula region. Krill stocks are 20% of those 30 years ago. The decline in krill may account for the decline in the numbers of some penguin species. .
Australian Antarctic scientists have warned of the impact of global warming on Antarctic krill and the seals, seabirds and whales that feed on krill. Thus Stephen Nicol, Anthony Worby and Rebecca Leaper warned as follows in a 2008 review paper : “The annual formation and loss of some 15 million km2 of sea ice around the Antarctic significantly affects global ocean circulation, particularly through the formation of dense bottom water. As one of the most profound seasonal changes on Earth, the formation and decay of sea ice plays a major role in climate processes. It is also likely to be impacted by climate change, potentially changing the productivity of the Antarctic region. The sea ice zone supports much wildlife, particularly large vertebrates such as seals, seabirds and whales, some exploited to near extinction. Cetacean [whale] species in the Southern Ocean will be directly impacted by changes in sea ice patterns as well as indirectly by changes in their principal prey, Antarctic krill, affected by modifications to their own environment through climate change. Understanding how climate change will affect species at all trophic levels in the Southern Ocean requires new approaches and integrated research programs. This review focuses on the current state of knowledge of the sea ice zone and examines the potential for climatic and ecological change in the region. In the context of changes already documented for seals and seabirds, it discusses potential effects on the most conspicuous vertebrate of the region, baleen whales.”. .
The Antarctic Division of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has similarly warned “Global change may adversely affect the Antarctic environment and its fauna and flora. For example, global warming may contribute to the break-up of large areas of ice-shelf and cause loss of habitat for animals dependent on the ice-shelf.” .
Dr Angus Atkinson from the British Antarctic Survey and international colleagues in the top scientific journal Nature (2008) stated, in summary: “Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) and [pelagic tunicate] salps (mainly Salpa thompsoni) are major grazers in the Southern Ocean, and krill support commercial fisheries5. Their density distributions have been described in the period 1926–51, while recent localized studies suggest short-term changes. To examine spatial and temporal changes over larger scales, we have combined all available scientific net sampling data from 1926 to 2003. This database shows that the productive southwest Atlantic sector contains >50% of Southern Ocean krill stocks, but here their density has declined since the 1970s. Spatially, within their habitat, summer krill density correlates positively with chlorophyll concentrations. Temporally, within the southwest Atlantic, summer krill densities correlate positively with sea-ice extent the previous winter. Summer food and the extent of winter sea ice are thus key factors in the high krill densities observed in the southwest Atlantic Ocean. Krill need the summer phytoplankton blooms of this sector, where winters of extensive sea ice mean plentiful winter food from ice algae, promoting larval recruitment and replenishing the stock. Salps, by contrast, occupy the extensive lower-productivity regions of the Southern Ocean and tolerate warmer water than krill. As krill densities decreased last century, salps appear to have increased in the southern part of their range. These changes have had profound effects within the Southern Ocean food web.” .
Dr Angus Atkinson from British Antarctic Survey, quoted by Cool Antarctica, says: "This is the first time that we have understood the full scale of this [krill] decline. Krill feed on the algae found under the surface of the sea-ice, which acts as a kind of 'nursery'. The Antarctic Peninsula, a key breeding ground for the krill, is one of the places in the world where there has been the greatest rise in temperatures due to global warming. This region has warmed by 2.5°C in the last 50 years (much more than the mean global rate), with a striking consequential decrease in winter sea-ice cover. We don't fully understand how the loss of sea-ice here is connected to the warming, but we believe that it could be behind the decline in krill.".” .
Dr Atkinson and colleagues say that “Penguins, albatrosses, seals and whales have wide foraging ranges, but are prone to krill shortage…The western Antarctic Peninsula is one of the world's fastest warming areas, and, atypically for the southern ocean, winter sea-ice duration in this sector is shortening…Key spawning and nursery areas of krill are thus located in a region that is sensitive to environmental change.'' [5, 6].
Australia is a world leader in condemning Japan for killing about 1,000 whales annually but actually Australia represents a vastly greater threat to whales as the world’s worst annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) polluter. .
Thus “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 54 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included). .
Australia’s highly conditional best offer at the Copenhagen Climate Conference was (a) “75% of 2000 value by 2020”, which would mean that (a) Australia’s domestic per capita GHG pollution would go from 30 to 17.2 in 2020 [19 times that of Bangladesh currently] and (b) that Australia’s domestic plus exported per capita would go from 54 to 62 tonnes CO2-e per person per year in 2020 [69 times that of Bangladesh currently] ). .
Climate criminal Australia, the world’s worst per capita GHG polluter and the world’s biggest coal exporter, helped the US sabotage the recent Copenhagen Climate Conference (2009), just as it helped the US sabotage the Kyoto(1997), Bali (2007) and Poznan (2008) Climate Conferences.
Indeed Australia’s hypocrisy was so blatant at Copenhagen that the China representative said that Australia was saying one thing in public and the opposite in private. The representative of the G77 group of non-European countries went even further, simply stating that Australia was lying.
The world must be made aware of the sheer hypocrisy of the extreme right wing, pro-war, pro-coal, pro-pollution Australian Government, which is claiming to be “tackling climate climate change” while doing the very opposite, and which is leading world condemnation of Japanese whaling while posing a massive threat to whales and indeed to all Antarctic animal life by its profligate and remorseless commitment to greenhouse gas pollution.
. “Antarctic Krill, Euphausia superba”, Cool Antarctic, 2005:
. “Antarctic convergence”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_Convergence .
. Stephen Nicol, Anthony Worby and Rebecca Leaper, “Changes in the Antarctic sea ice ecosystem: potential effects on krill and baleen whales”, Marine and Freshwater Research 59(5) 361–382, June 2008.
. Antarctic Division of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).”Human impacts in Antarctica”, 2008: http://www.aad.gov.au/default.asp?casid=3436 .
. Angus Atkinson, Volker Siegel, Evgeny Pakhomov & Peter Rothery, “Long-term decline in krill stock and increase in salps within the Southern Ocean”, Nature, 432, 100-103 (4 November 2004):
. Alex Morales, “Antarctic Sea Ice Retreats, Posing Threat to Krill, Wildlife”, Bloomberg, 3 November 2004:
. Gideon Polya, “My Country Australia plans to kill coral, krill, Whales and Terra?”, Newsvine, 3 July 2008:
. Gideon Polya, “Copenhagen Greenhouse Gas reduction proposals - quantitative comparisons”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group, 2009: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/
Dr Gideon Polya currently teaches science students at a major Australian university. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003). He has recently published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contribution “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007): http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/
ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ). He has just published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others:
bengalfamine_programme.html ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya’s huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see “Truth , Beauty & Saving the World – Science, Art & Nuclear, Greenhouse & Poverty Threats”: