Subject: whales and the environment

Dr. Cathy Schaeff (
Mon, 06 Oct 1997 09:18:55 +0000

lingo wrote:
> Hello. I am a student at USC and I am doing a paper on whaling. I would
> like to know what environmental impact do whales have? What is their
> importance to the environment? Could you please help me? Thank you.

Hi Lingo,

Whales are part of various food webs.  If whale were removed those food
webs would be effected.  Baleen species are very low on food webs.  The
krill and copepods that they eat would increase in number of the whales
were not present as would other species that normally have to share
their food with the whales ('cause they would no longer have
competitors).  Other whale species such as  sperm whales and orcas have
teeth rather than baleen.  Orcas eat seals and seal lions and do not
them selves have many predators (perhaps sharks if the whales are young
or sick).  So the removal of orcas from the top of food web would affect
both the orcas' prey but also their prey's prey. since the seals would
become more plentiful if they are not being removed by the orcas.

Hope that this helps.  Cathy Schaeff
Dr. Cathy Schaeff
Biology Department 
American University
4400 Mass. Ave. N.W. 
Washington D.C. 20016-8007
(202) 885-2175 (phone)
(202) 885-2182 (fax) (email)