22nd February, 2023 Environment
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Context: Pilot whales were stranded near the shore of Kalpitiya, a town located on Sri Lanka’s west coast. Although mass strandings have been occurring since the times of Aristotle — back then, they were considered a gift from the gods as the stranded whales and dolphins were a rich source of food and oil — experts don’t know exactly why they take place.
- Apart from Sri Lanka, Australia’s Tasmania has also seen mass beaching of whales.
What is whale stranding and why does it happen?
- Whale stranding is a phenomenon in which whales are stuck on land, usually on a beach.
- Other aquatic animals like dolphins and porpoises are also known to beach.
- Most of the stranding events involve single animals but sometimes, mass strandings, consisting of hundreds of marine animals at a time, can happen.
- The reasons for mass strandings are several, including the topography of the region, illness, human activities and increasing noise pollution in the oceans.
- Among the major hotspots for the beaching of aquatic animals are Tasmania, New Zealand‘s Golden Bay and Massachusetts’s Cape Cod in the United States.
Impact of human activities:
- Experts believe that mass strandings could be becoming more common as the health of oceans continues to deteriorate due to human interference.
- One of the prime reasons for such incidents could be an increase in noise pollution in the oceans.
- The latest whale beaching event in Sri Lanka might have been caused due to the “recent seismic activity in the Indian Ocean”.
- Several studies have shown that noise from large commercial ships, military sonars or offshore drilling severely impacts whales’ and other marine animals’ ability to use sound to navigate, find food and protect themselves. This can drive them ashore by deafening, disorienting, or frightening them.
- Another factor could be the rising temperatures of the oceans that cause changes in prey and predator distribution, resulting in whales coming closer to shore.
- It’s very difficult to prevent them.
- Also, as strandings happen due to several reasons, no one-size-fits-all solution would work.
- However, “taking more care of our actions in the ocean to try and minimise human activities which might impact marine life” might help reduce the chances of such incidents.