Juneau Nature

Natural & cultural history of Juneau & Southeast Alaska

Juneau Nature - Natural & cultural history of Juneau & Southeast Alaska

Marine mammals

Here’s how we concluded the chapter on marine mammals in the 3rd edition of The Nature of Southeast Alaska:

“Elsewhere, the world’s oceans are in trouble. Vast dead zones bracket heavily developed shores, where jellyfish and toxic dinoflagellates dominate the fauna, and large vertebrates are functionally extinct. In coastal seas, large whales have declined 85%, sea cows 90%, pinnipeds and otters 55%, shorebirds 61%, sea turtles 87%, and oysters 91%. In deeper pelagic waters, large predatory fish fell 90% since 1950.

What a miracle then, to live where all 9 of the commonest marine mammals—with only localized exceptions—are deemed stable or increasing overall! Certainly, the fate of other oceans abjures complacency. Even Southeast Alaska hosted centuries of slaughter, and only coastal resilience—little aided by human wisdom or restraint—fetched back our sea-fauna from the still-yawning brink.

But it slights Southeast not to celebrate her flippered denizens. For those who reside within daily earshot of huffing, submarine lungs, the fat of the land, often enough, is an emanation from the sea.”    Carstensen & Armstrong, 2014

Humpback whale

Video by Bob Christensen of a humpback whale using the “flick-feeding” technique in Icy Strait.