A team of scientists are devising ways of saving our oceans and tackling climate change with fake whale poo. The international team are a collaboration of six universities and research centers looking at the benefits of dispersing the poo. The project will take place over the next two months off the coast of India, with David King, former scientific advisor to the UK government at the helm. The aim of the project is to help to boost fish populations and subsequently help climate change.
How whale poo help tackle climate changeEmbed from Getty Images
Though it sounds surreal, whale feces acts as a natural fertiliser for the ocean surface. Whales defecate around 2% of the food they consume a day- up to 3 tons if you’re a blue whale! Though whales feed in deep water, they go to the (figurative) toilet closer to the surface. Their waste is full of essential vitamins and resources- iron and nitrogen being some of those- which fertilises plankton. Billions of fish and other marine life rely on this plankton as their source of food. The plankton is not only a food source for fish, it can also capture carbon! As the whales’ waste feeds the plankton close to the surface, the plankton absorbs the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the plankton sinks to the ocean floor, it takes the carbon with it, where it is stored.
Whales have been rapidly declining due to humans hunting them, accidents with boat, and trawler fishing. Since whales are so vital to the ecosystem, creating artificial poo that mimics whales’ is seen as a way to encourage plankton populations. Whilst the team has yet to decide what they will make the faux poo from, iron-rich sand and volcanic ash are two possibilities. The most important element is that it chemically matches what the whale excretes. After the mixture is prepared it will be put onto baked rice husks, and be launched out to sea.
A similar project has already happened in Australia. Sydney-based WhaleX has been launching their own faux whale poo into the oceans since December last year. Their mixture is a seaweed gel, made up of nitrogen, phosphorus and trace elements. WhaleX’s primary aim is to remove carbon from the atmosphere. They are taking part in a competition created by Elon Musk to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and are hoping for part of a $100 million prize.