The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated the value of a single great whale at more than $2 million – which comes to more than $1 trillion for the current stock of great whales, reports the World Economic Forum.
Over a lifespan of around 60 years, whales – especially great whales, such as right and grey whales – accumulate an average of 33 tonnes of CO2. When they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean, locking that carbon away for hundreds of years.
By comparison, a tree absorbs up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year.
Part of the carbon capture potential for whales comes down to their role in increasing phytoplankton productivity wherever they go – a phenomenon called the whale pump.