Bryde's Whales Are Still Suffering
From Effects of Horizon Oil Spill
There is a mysterious type of baleen whale that lives in an underwater canyon off the Florida panhandle in the Gulf of Mexico. It is called Bryde's whale (Balaenoptera edeni) - pronounced Broodas' - after a 19th century Norwegian whaler, Johan Bryde. They are 55 feet long and weigh 90,000 pounds and eat plankton, crustaceans and small fish. Several other species visit the Gulf, but Bryde's are whales that live there year-round.
New genetic testing suggests the 25 to 40 Gulf whales may be a distinct subspecies of Bryde's or a new species entirely. If so, they are the most endangered whales on the planet. This population is also called the Gulf of Mexico 'X' whales or GoMx whales. The last estimate is from a survey in 2009 and that estimate was 33 whales.
Bryde's were whales that became targets when the other large whales were depleted, but they were never hunted as heavily as their large cousins. Because of this, their numbers were not seriously impacted.
The small population of Bryde's living currently in the Gulf is a direct result of the Horizon Gulf Oil Spill. These numbers are too low for a population to survive.
The worldwide population of Bryde's is probably about 20,000-30,000 in the North Pacific and about 10,000 in the eastern tropical Pacific. The species as a whole is not considered to be endangered or threatened.
The western North Pacific stock is thought to be increasing. But they face increasing noise disturbance caused by shipping, as well as the widespread use of seismic airgun surveys used for oil and gas exploration. Athough airguns have been banned in DeSoto Canyon (a chasm off the coasts of Mississippi and Florida) in order to protect these whales, there are still the additional human threats such as the potential for another oil spill. The Horizon oil spill occurred in DeSoto Canyon.