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Blue Whales Bouncing Back From Brink Of Extinction After Decades Of Decline

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 21 Feb 2020 13:14
Blue Whales Bouncing Back From Brink Of Extinction After Decades Of DeclineBlue Whales Bouncing Back From Brink Of Extinction After Decades Of DeclinePixabay

Amazingly, blue whales have managed to bounce back from the brink of extinction, and it’s the news we all need to hear this Friday.

There’s constant news coverage about the numbers of different species of animals rapidly declining, but this good news about blue whales comes as a breath of fresh air.

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The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has found an ‘unprecedented’ amount of the whales in South Georgia after their numbers had reduced by a drastic 97% in recent years.

bLue whalebLue whalePA images

Whale project leader Dr Jennifer Jackson, a whale ecologist at BAS, said:

After three years of surveys, we are thrilled to see so many whales visiting South Georgia to feed again. This is a place where both whaling and sealing were carried out extensively.

It is clear that protection from whaling has worked, with humpback whales now seen at densities similar to those a century earlier, when whaling first began at South Georgia.

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Blue whales were savagely hunted for years for their blubber, baleen and meat, which saw 176,000 killed in just 60 years.

In 1986, commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which has evidently helped the species grow in number.

WhalingWhalingPA images

Only one blue whale was spotted during a BAS survey in 2018, but in this year’s survey, in which there were an optimistic 36 separate sightings. Altogether, 55 blue whales were seen. Blue whales grow up to a whopping 98 feet in length, so it’s safe to say they wouldn’t be too difficult to spot.

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On a heavier note, despite the commercial whaling ban being in place for more than 30 years, countries like Norway, Japan and Iceland still continued to undertake it and have lodged official objections to the ban.

They claimed they continued it for for scientific purposes, but Iceland officially resumed its commercial whaling back in 2006.

Scientific whalingScientific whalingWWF

The WWF reported that more than 31,000 whales have been killed by countries who continued whaling since the ban (also known as the moratorium) came into place in the 1980s.

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However, despite having what’s known as a scientific permit for whaling, the WWF argues Norway and Japan did it for ‘politics, not science’.

It said:

Under another provision of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling, some nations have continued to hunt whales using the “scientific permit” exception.

This system allows nations to grant their whalers permits to conduct scientific studies, with the express understanding that the whales taken should be “processed” “so far as practicable”. In this way, whales may be taken and their meat and products commercially sold. Accusations have been made that Japan is using scientific permits as a way around the moratorium.

[…] These countries claim that the catches are essential to obtain necessary information for research and future cetacean management.

Despite having a scientific permit, in June 2019 Japan announced it was also officially resuming commercial whaling.

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Blue Whales Bouncing Back From Brink Of Extinction After Decades Of DeclineBlue Whales Bouncing Back From Brink Of Extinction After Decades Of DeclinePexels

According to the BBC, Japan’s whaling ships had a permit to catch 227 minke, Bryde’s and sei whales last year in Japanese waters.

Upon resuming commercial whaling, Japan removed itself from the IWC, meaning it no longer needed to abide by its rules.

Apparently Japan has long argued it is possible to hunt whales in a sustainable way, despite species like the blue whale being classed as critically endangered.

Despite some countries’ objections, the likes of the WWF and IWC still actively condemn commercial whaling.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Animals, Antarctica

Credits

British Antarctic Survey and 2 others
  1. British Antarctic Survey

    Return of the whales to South Georgia

  2. WWF

    31,984 have been killed by whaling since the IWC moratorium

  3. BBC

    Japan resumes commercial whaling after 30 years