Like all living beings, whales occupy a role in the food chain and thus contribute to the balance of the marine ecosystem. Plastic entering the ocean is one of the biggest threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises as well as other marine life.
It isn’t just the obvious plastics that we can see – bottles, bags and ghost fishing gear – that are endangering these beautiful creatures. Microplastics – plastics that have broken down over time – are getting smaller and smaller and contain a cocktail of chemical compounds, leaching into the surrounding environment.
Not being absorbed into nature, microplastics float around and ultimately enter the food chain through ingestion by marine plankton, fish and filter feeders like whales.
Whales act like a pump that recirculates the fish and zooplankton that they’ve ingested toward the surface in the form of nitrogen-rich fecal matter. These nutrients are essential to the primary production of the marine ecosystem.
When one animal species important to the food chain dies, it allows other species to thrive.
Whilst it may appear that other species are benefiting from no longer having to face a predator such as whales, over time, these animals will overpopulate and possibly destroy the population of other species that it feeds on, so whales play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem by making sure other species do not overpopulate and destroy the species below them in the food chain.