Foo Fighters immortalize Japan’s endangered monk seal in a song

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl announced the band’s next tour during an episode of Last Week Tonight Tuesday, and explained its 2017 outing of a blue whale. “We were only in Japan a month, and we decided this has to be a song that’s meant to capture that attention and love at the exact same time,” Grohl said. He then played “The Blue Whale.”

The lyrics “erase my bar codes, I take it home/ takes me back to your desert island/ where in my mind I’m lost forever” are referencing Japan’s Blue Whale Preservation and Sanctuary program, which seeks to keep the ancient monk seal from becoming a culture’s iconic symbol of endangered fin whale meat. The song was used to announce the band’s long list of upcoming tour dates.

Japan’s population of the monk seal, which is one of the most endangered marine species, has dropped dramatically over the last two decades. During the last five years, the population has declined 22 percent, and with that, the monk seal’s chances of survival are diminishing by 0.1 percent each year.

Part of that decline can be attributed to the declining waters of the Sea of Japan due to climate change. “The probability that a monk seal will be found on a seawall or rope used for hunting has significantly decreased. In fact, all the monk seals found this way have died within the last year,” Eron Smith, director of the Marine Mammal Research Center, told the BBC. “While changes in water levels are responsible for much of the decline, indirect threats also play a role, such as a decrease in the density of surface water pollution and an increase in fishing activity in the waters surrounding Japan.”

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