Right whales are in trouble, and no one knows why. Some people think they're facing extinction.
Right whales, or great whales, are large whales that eat copepods and krill that they catch by straining them through baleen plates in their mouth. They were favorites of whale hunters in the 19th century, which accounts for their name.
But recently, large numbers of right whales have been found washing up on the coast of Argentina. According to news reports, many of the corpses had unusually thin layers of blubber.
Naturally, anything that would shrink layers of blubber sounds interesting to me, so I decided to interview a few of the whales that have survived.
I first interviewed Wilhelmina, a large female with a skinny calf, and asked if she knew what the problem was.
"Not really," she said. "I'm trying to do the best for my calf, so after he was born, I went to see a dietician. The dietician told me my calf needs lots of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy. My own milk is very rich in fat, about 40%, so I immediately weaned Fritz searched for low-fat dairy. Have you ever tried to find low-fat dairy out here in the ocean?"
I admitted I had not.
"Fruits and vegetables aren't so easy to find either," she went on. "Poor Fritz is starving."
I sympathized and spoke with Maud, a female without a calf, who was looking rather poorly.
"I also saw a dietician," she said. "She told me that the food I had been eating was too high in fat. She said I needed to eat more fruit and vegetables, so of course I stopped straining out krill and went hunting for fruits and vegetables. I did find a few sea vegetables and fruits of the sea. But have you ever tried chewing seaweed and crabs when you have no teeth? I tell you, it's not a pretty sight. So I just stopped eating and most of my blubber disappeared."
Next I interviewed Alphonse, a large male who seemed to have no blubber at all.
"My dietician told me that copepods and krill had too many carbs," he mourned. She said I should eat only meat and cheese and low-carb vegetables. Well, where am I going to get meat and cheese? I thought I'd try eating a killer whale, but it soon became apparent he was about to eat me, so I abandoned that approach and went looking for cheese. No luck there either. Guess I'm just fated to be thin."
One nutrition expert told me the whales needed to go vegetarian and they'd be cured of their blubber lack. Another one suggested eliminating wheat and dairy, and when the whale said he had never eaten wheat or dairy, the nutritionist suggested eating more blueberries.
Another nutrition expert said the problem was that all the whales had been following fad diets. What they needed, he said, was a balanced diet with a little food from all the food groups, instead of their unbalanced diet of seafood alone.
Published On: April 20, 2010