March 11, 2010
Humans Outcompeting Killer Whales For Food

morefish for dinner means fewer whales in the oceans.

A one-of-a-kind killer whale population appears to be threatened by human appetites for Antarctic toothfish, better known to restaurant-goers as Chilean Sea Bass.

As fishing fleets patrol their waters, catching what was their primary source of food, the whales are vanishing. It’s not certain whether they’ve only moved on, or are dying out, or both. But something is happening, with potentially dark implications for Earth’s last pristine ecosystem.

“There’s been a dramatic disappearance of the whales,” said biologist David Ainley of ecological consulting firm H.T. Harvey and Associates, and co-author of a March Aquatic Mammals article on the whales’ disappearance. “We think they’re having a harder time trying to find food. Whether that leads to population decrease, hopefully we won’t find out. But we will find out, if it continues.”

Humans are already overfishing the oceans. With rising populations and increased buying power due to industrialization in more corners of the globe the demand for fish will continue to rise and fisheries depletion will worsen.

Killer whales are also hit by overfishing of salmon.

Killer whales attack prey as large as gray whales and as small as herring. But the resident killer whales of the San Juan Islands prefer to eat chinook salmon -- and that could be their ruin.

Researchers tracking the whales found their numbers fell sharply during the chinook salmon decline in the 1990s. Even though seals, sea lions and even other kinds of salmon and fish remained relatively abundant, the San Juan killer whales died at unusually high rates, probably from malnutrition.

The world's governments should put more areas of the oceans off-limits for fishing to give fisheries a chance to recover.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 March 11 07:44 PM  Trends Habitat Loss

PacRim Jim said at March 11, 2010 8:06 PM:

Are we trying to halt evolution and "freeze" nature as is? More than 99% of all species that have existed are extinct. Nature is not our pet.

Mthson said at March 11, 2010 10:09 PM:

Put into lab-grown meat* research 1/100 of the funds devoted to conservation and anti- global warming efforts, and problems like this vanish.

*"Will Lab-Grown Meat Save the Planet? Or is it only good for cows and pigs?" Slate, 2008.

black Death said at March 12, 2010 6:20 AM:

Much of the overfishing of the Antarctic waters is carried out by the Japanese. Theyir depletion of krill is especially damaging (

The other alarming information I obtained was that the Krill (the essential base of the food chain for the vertebrate fauna) are also being depleted. Whilst climate change and its effect on ice flows and pack ice have a major bearing on this, there is today massive fishing for krill by Japan. I was told that new techniques for extracting krill at a far greater tonnage were now having devastating effects on the population density. This will have an additional impact upon the survival of other biodiversity further up the food chain.

They also kill whales, including pregnant and lactating whales, in great numbers (

The Humane Society International is denouncing the Japanese government for killing pregnant and lactating female whales.
Of 679 whales reported to have been killed during the 2008-2009 whale hunt in Antarctica, 304 were female. Four of the female whales were lactating, and 192 were pregnant at the time of death. The Japanese government’s “Cruise Report” gives gruesome details on the fetuses killed. The four lactating females killed would each have had a dependent calf who would inevitably have starved to death.
In 1986, Japan agreed to an international moratorium on whaling, but the country continues to hunt whales under the guise of scientific research. Any whale meat not used for research can be sold for human consumption.

The BBC explains:
Whale meat not used for study is sold for consumption in Japan – which critics say is the real reason for the hunt. The meat can be found in supermarkets and restaurants across the country…Generations of children have been given whale meat for their school lunches, our correspondent says. Consumption of whale meat is now low, but attempts have been made to increase its popularity by marketing whale curry and whale burgers, he adds.

So while other nations have abandoned this type of predatory and barbaric activity, the Japanese continue it so they can enjoy their whale burgers.

random said at March 12, 2010 8:25 AM:

It has taken thousands of years of selective breeding to create the cows and pigs we eat today. They are stupid, placid, and very large - all ideal traits for a domesticated protein source.

We will need to create a domesticated fish source at some point, and it will likely require genetic engineering to happen before our oceans are entirely depleted.

Lono said at March 12, 2010 9:06 AM:


Absolutely - but don't expect Humans to be rational about this - in fact I almost expect they'd except Soylent Green before excepting such a "Frankenstein Food" - based on my discussions with the general populase.


Black Death,

The Japanese need to be held accountable for their lack of proper sustainable resource management - but of course - they will not be - because thanks to some shrewd recent Chinese cutting their losses - Japan again holds the majority of American dept.


Certainly that is the path to the future - but it is not occuring fast enough to offset our losses - therefore political pressure MUST be exerted on those countries (including America) who are pushing our ocean's resources to the brink quite unecessarily and short-sightedly...

Of course - as I have pointed out ad nauseum here at FP - most of these problems are not techinical ones - but political ones - that will not be overcome until we replace old tribal heirarchies with - essentially - scientific dictatorships - benevolently controlled societies that will give the illusion of freedom to the unwashed masses of Densans - while retaining the absolute power necessary to affect the progressive, dynamic, and efficient change neccesary to solve much of the world's complex and interconnected problems.

(and don't give me that b.s. about oh no - if you want power you shouldn't have it - we are rapidly approaching a one world government today based on old genetic predispositions - one that any well read citizen can easily predict will be - much like parts of modern day China - a polluted and spirit crushing dystopia)

Micha Elyi said at March 12, 2010 3:51 PM:

When will the eco-wackos get their story straight: are we or are we not to eat farmed fish?

dee said at March 12, 2010 5:31 PM:

"So while other nations have abandoned this type of predatory and barbaric activity, the Japanese continue it so they can enjoy their whale burgers."

Blah, blah, blah, everyone except the Norwegians, the Russians, the Chinese, the Icelanders, and the Canadian, Danish, American Indian and Inuit tribes, and so on...

The Japanese are taking Minke Whales which are not an endangered species, nor are they even protected (Google or Wikipedia it).

Cynical Bastard said at March 12, 2010 5:56 PM:

Random @8:25

Your wish is granted. I give you... WAIT FOR IT!... genetically engineered salmon:, if only greenies shut the hell about it, the pressure on the wild fish would have been a lot less.

Randall Parker said at March 12, 2010 6:03 PM:


No need to breed fish for captive farming. Aquaculture's real problems lie elsewhere. One big problem is food. What do you feed fish? Currently a substantial fraction of farmed fish feed is wild fish. What is needed: genetically engineered grain crops that have omega 3 fatty acids to make them better food for fish.

black Death,

We've had a number of collapses of fisheries. But the obvious just does not sink in. I expect more depletion and a drop in total harvests.


Scientific dictatorships: You really think so? I would expect cleaner air in that case. Also, efforts to discourage reproduction - like in China.

When China becomes the most powerful country in the world in which direction will they steer?

mike in tn said at March 12, 2010 6:28 PM:

Chilean sea bass, served at Karina Gore's wedding, paid for by his HRH AlGore
tough luck whales

LarryD said at March 12, 2010 7:45 PM:

Communism claimed to be a Scientific dictatorship. Didn't turn out so scientific. Or benevolent. Governments are run by people, and the more dictatorial they are, the less the rulers are held to any standard but their own. A Benevolent Disctatorship is a dangerious delusion.

HbG Antoinette said at March 12, 2010 8:50 PM:

Let them eat cakefish

dee said at March 12, 2010 10:03 PM:

"No need to breed fish for captive farming. Aquaculture's real problems lie elsewhere. One big problem is food. What do you feed fish? Currently a substantial fraction of farmed fish feed is wild fish. What is needed: genetically engineered grain crops that have omega 3 fatty acids to make them better food for fish."

Unfortunately that delves into the scary realm of "Frankenfoods", which to most coffee-shop greenies and reds is just as evil as anything else that humans do to make our lives better...

Most aquaculturalists can profitably farm raise shrimp/prawns/and mollusks, and then sell them on the open market for much less than shrimp boat crews can harvest them, and they can also sell their surplus shrimp to feed other types of farm raised fish.

However, a lot of the lobbyists representing the European and North American fishing industries are firmly against small scale aquaculturalists cutting into their profits, and work against them by placing protectionist trade restrictions against them.

By removing the trade restrictions to US and Euro markets, small-scale aquaculture could easily take the pressure off of depleted oceanic fish stocks, as well as better the lives of those working at the fish farms.

malthus said at March 12, 2010 10:26 PM:

Well in Prince William Sound Humpbacks are outcompeting humans for herring.

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