LARGEST BALEEN WHALE MASS STRANDING IN SOUTHERN CHILE RELATED TO TOXIC ALGAL BLOOM
In March 2015, by far the largest reported mass mortality of baleen whales took place in a gulf in Southern Chile. At that moment, researchers discovered 367 dead whales, from the sector of Gulf of Penas and Puerto Natales, in Magallanes region.
In May the scientific journal PeerJ published the final study on the mass stranding event, most of them sei whale (Balaenoptera boreal), whale species which is endangered. According to the research, led by Vreni Häussermann, the event was related to the proliferation of toxic algae during the El Niño phenomenon.
While large mass mortality events are well known for toothed whales, they have been rare in baleen whales due to their less gregarious behavior. Although in most cases the cause of mortality has not been conclusively identified, some baleen whale mortality events have been linked to bio-oceanographic conditions
According to the study if the frequency and magnitude of
mass mortality events
increase due to climate change this would have a significant impact on the local population and threaten the recovery of this endangered species, which in the Southern Hemisphere was reduced by whaling from about 100,000 to 24,000 individuals by 1980.
- Photo: SERNAPESCA
Häussermann et al. 2017. Largest baleen whale mass mortality during strong El Niño event is likely related to harmful toxic algal bloom. PeerJ