Question about blue whale (fwd)

From: what@whale.wheelock.edu
Date: Fri Oct 20 2006 - 05:52:41 EDT

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    Dr. Tom,

    I am 9 years old, and studying the effects of endangered animals and plants.
    I would like to know what the effect would be on the ecosystem of California
    if the blue whale became extinct. Could you please help me with this?

    Thankyou,

    Laurel

    Hello Laurel .

    You have posed a very tough question. It is pretty deep as questions go.

    The loss of blue whales would have some immediate impacts on some people.
    The loss of the largest animals to ever live on the planet would be a true
    disaster. People wanting to see blue whales while whale watching would be
    disappointed.

    The crews running whale watch boats would lose a fair amount of income and
    possibly lose their boats . Those are obvious secondary losses. The really
    important changes in the ecosystem are more subtle and hard to predict.

    Blue whales consume huge amounts of plankton. If the numbers of those
    smaller species were
    not naturally controlled there would be an overpopulation imbalance. That
    imbalance could flow over into a lack of foods for many other species. Some
    of those other organisms might be toxic .

    Fish and shellfish eating those toxic plankton might be eaten by people and
    cause severe illnesses. The resulting bad publicity might cause people to
    avoid ocean generated foods.
    This type of impact chain is hard to predict and is an example of the Law of
    Unintended Consequences.

    What I mean to say is that the loss of blue whales would cause changes that
    we cannot accurately predict. In the oceanic world of plankton the blue
    whale is the top predator. An ecosystem cannot lose its top predator
    without unpredictable and sometimes severe consequences.

    great questioning ,

    Dr. Tom Ford



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