Whale Watching? Whale Whiffing, more like…


We heard from a Nova-Scotia visitor who hadn’t had a lot of luck on her whale-watching tour; she said that the weather was against them every time they went to sea and that the visibility was little or none.  But – she assured us that the whales were there because the whiff of whale-breath was close by.  Apparently the wide-mouthed balleen whales reek of fish.  Hardly surprising, really.

There’s more to it, though, says Marine Biologist Susan Scott:

Whale species all over the world have fish breath. The term “stinky minke” is a nickname minke whales earned for their odor of rotten fish. Right whales reek, too. Philip Hoare, author of “The Whale, In Search of the Giants of the Sea” (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2010), writes that the smell of right whales is “somewhere between a cow’s fart and a fishy wharf.”
Gray whales have their own odor issues. Some individuals smell so “medicinal” that neither Chukotkan subsistence hunters (in Russia) nor their sled dogs can eat the meat. In 2008, Russian and U.S. scientists examined grays for industrial pollutants. The tissues of the stinkies and the nonstinkies were the same. The cause of the unpleasant smell remains unknown.