Valdés Peninsula | Fragile World (Part 7)

Since tourism reached the Peninsula Valdes, all its ecosystems have been altered seriously affecting the southern right whales

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We are changing the world.
We are altering ecosystems, changing landscapes, wiping out species at a speed 10,000 times greater than that required by nature to make new creatures appear. Man is the new vector of change, as meteorites and continental drift were in the past. And in this global process, we are all contributing to the change.

Since 1983, the Valdés Peninsula has been a sanctuary for the large southern cetaceans. Here, the large right whales rest and reproduce, and their numbers have gradually risen. But, in our pragmatic world, conservation is only possible if it brings income for the populations of the places in which it is practiced, and so, along with the creation of the national park, a tourist industry was also developed, and this has proven to be very lucrative. So far so good. But in this process there were some elements that were not taken into account. And one of these was the seagulls.

Seagulls, and some other marine birds such as the skuas and petrels, are great opportunists. Along the southern coasts, they take advantage of all the existing food resources, and in an entirely natural way, they have fed on fish, bodies thrown into the sea, molluscs and, in the breeding season, the chicks and eggs of a number of marine birds. 

These resources were limited, and this in turn limited the populations of these opportunists of the sea. Until tourism arrived in Valdés.

Today, there are so many seagulls, which attack the large whales, ripping flesh from their backs, that the cetaceans have been forced to change their behaviour.

The growing numbers of tourists led to immediate growth in the towns and villages adjacent to Valdés. The hotels, inns, restaurants and craft shops multiplied. But no one controlled the waste produced by them, and large waste dumps grew alongside the new settlements. These waste dumps became an inexhaustible source of food for seagulls and skuas, and their populations grew alarmingly. And today, paradoxically, the seagulls have become the greatest danger for the protected whales of the Valdés Peninsula, forcing man to seek new solutions.

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