Human activities and marine life

Article by Anna Sanchez Mora, marine biologist and guide at Cabo Trek

Every year in this season, many tourists from all over the world come to Cabo to assist to the spectacular event of watching the humpback whales in their natural environment. Whale watching platforms can be a fantastic tool not just to enjoy wildlife, also to collect scientific data for research. This allows knowing more about the whales and consequently, it’s a very important tool for their conservation. Even so, whale watching activity has to be done according to good practices otherwise can have a negative impact for the whales.

Nowadays, humpback whales and other marine life are exposed to some impacts caused by human activities. Around our waters, several evidences of impacts on humpback whales and other marine animals such as sea lions and pelicans has been reported. Those animals share their habitat with recreational and commercial activities, and as a result, are at risk from entanglements in fishing gear and vessel strikes.

Some of these animals show scars caused by entanglements in fishing gear. Whales most affected are those close to shore where more fishery effort takes place. Cabo is a birthing and mating area for humpback whales and can be seen very close to shore becoming more vulnerable to entanglement in nets. Entanglement can lead to drowning, since trapped animals cannot reach the surface to breathe, to laceration and infection caused by heavy ropes biting through skin, and to starvation because animals towing heavy fishing gear cannot feed effectively. Scientists suggest that over 300,000 marine mammals die annually die to fishing entanglement, causing a devastating and long-term conservation impact.

This is not the only problem that they face, also marks of propellers has been seen on sea lions and whales. There is evidence that boat collisions occur in our waters. Boat traffic is increasing around the world, which make whales more vulnerable to ship strikes. Cetaceans are capable of reacting to danger quickly, but in certain situations are less alert, for example when they are sleeping or resting at the surface, feeding, nursing their young or reproducing. When a whale or dolphin is hit by a vessel, they can die instantly or as a consequence from severe injuries that affect their daily life.

We have to be aware of those problems and be extremely precautious in whale areas, not leaving fishing gear abandoned in the ocean, reducing vessel speed close to whales as well as keep a safe distance with them.

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