Whales consume great numbers of fish and invertebrates, are themselves prey of other predators, and spread nutrients through the water.
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After studying several decades of work on whales from around the world, researchers have learned that whales are the “engineers” of the sea — they have an impressive and positive influence on the function of oceans, global carbon storage and the health of commercial fisheries.
“The decline in great whale numbers, estimated to be at least 66 percent and perhaps as high as 90 percent, has likely altered the structure and function of the oceans,” University of Vermont conservation biologist Joe Roman and his colleagues posit in a study published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, “but recovery is possible and in many cases is already underway.”