The Whales And Dolphins At Risk From The Oil Spill In The Gulf Of Mexico

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Today while I got my hair cut, I chatted with the stylist and mentioned that I’m considering taking my family down to help with the Gulf clean up this summer if help is still needed. The stylist mentioned that their salon is collecting the cut hair and sending it to be made into mats – apparently human hair is very absorbent, and the mats are used with the booms to contain the spill. It was a meaningful way for them to do something, and I think each of us can come up with a way to help out – even if it is just to seek out the salons that are participating in that program.

The spill will impact many species of whales and dolphins, some of which are endangered, and some that we barely know anything about yet. The following list is a sobering list of the whales and dolphin species that may be directly affected by the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


The (E) next to the common name indicates that the species is listed under the
Edangered Species Act of 1973 as endangered .

Northern right whale (E)
Blue whale (E)
Fin whale (E)
Sei whale (E)
Bryde’s whale
Minke whale
Humpback whale (E)
Sperm whale (E)
Pygmy sperm whale
Dwarf sperm whale
Cuvier’s beaked whale
Blainville’s beaked whale
Sowerby’s beaked whale
Gervais’ beaked whale
Melon-headed whale
Pygmy killer whale
False killer whale
Killer whale
Short-finned pilot whale
Rough-toothed dolphin
Fraser’s dolphin
Bottlenose dolphin
Risso’s dolphin
Atlantic spotted dolphin
Pantropical spotted dolphin
Striped dolphin
Spinner dolphin
Clymene dolphin

Missing from this list are the hundreds and hundreds of other marine species that compose the Gulf food web, the destruction of which could impact the whales and dolphins for a long time into the future.

Among the most vulnerable are the eggs and juvenile stages of fish and invertebrates, such as shrimp, crabs and lobster which spend the early part of their lives in masses of plankton. For the most part, plankton are trapped by water masses and currents and have only limited ability to swim, and at night are generally confined to the surface layers. The krill that supply the large whales with energy in turn follow the plankton, putting the krill at the mercy of surface layer conditions.

It could be years until the food source for the whales and dolphins recovers, and for some species it may not be in time.

I may not be able to get down there myself, but it is nice to think that at least my hair is on its way there, to help sop up the mess.

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