Healthy marine mammals are a reflection of a healthy ocean.
As an archipelago, Indonesian waters are one of the busiest migration routes in the world for marine mammals. Of the 128 species of marine mammals recorded on Earth, 35 are found in Indonesia.
The presence of these marine mammals is important for the balance of the marine ecosystem and contributes significantly to humans and other creatures. One of these marine mammals is the sperm whale. Their feces can sequester carbon in the ocean. However, the survival of sperm whales in recent years has been disrupted.
The Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries noted that between 2015 and February 2021, 970 marine mammals were found stranded on Indonesian coastlines. Marine mammals stranded in shallow waters can only survive for one to two days. After that, their bodies begin to be affected by the Earth’s gravity, and the sun’s rays slowly begin to burn them, causing dehydration and internal organ dysfunction.
In Aceh Province, 11 sperm whales were stranded in 2016 and 2017, both alive and dead. Ironically, these whales are listed as endangered.
From 1800 to 1980, almost two centuries, sperm whales have been targeted for commercial hunting. This is one of the causes of the shrinking sperm whale population in the world. Then, the International Whaling Commission in 1986 imposed a moratorium on sperm whaling. Since the moratorium was issued, the sperm whale population has continued to grow. But that’s not the only problem with sperm whale survival today.
In addition to disease, other marine predators, noise, fishing activities, ship collisions, marine pollution, seafloor earthquakes, algae blooms and solar storms as noted by Whale Stranding Indonesia (WSI), climate change has also undeniably contributed to the stranding of marine mammals.
Climate change has caused the weather to worsen, resulting in high waves, changing water temperatures and shifting geographic ranges. These in turn affect the migration patterns of marine mammals. Consequently, they are stranded in shallow waters and die.