Humpback Whale Bounces Back From Near Extinction – From 450 To Over 25,000

There is a lot of negative news out there. Turn on your TV news, or check your social media channels and you’ll see it first hand. But among the seemingly chaotic world we live in it’s heartening to learn that a once endangered marine species is not only bouncing back but thriving.

Humpback whales in the South Atlantic are on the rebound after facing almost near extinction it seems, according to new research.

Pressures from the whaling industry in the early 1900s saw humpback populations in the South Atlantic Ocean dwindle to just 450 whales in total. Over a 12-year period, it is estimated that over 25,000 if the marine mammals were hunted and killed reports GoodNewsNetwork.

Scientists back in the 1960s began to notice a sharp decline in global whale populations, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s for any action to be taken. The International Whaling Commission issued a moratorium on all commercial whale vessels and since then, further measures have been put in place to help the struggling population.

The new data is thanks to research co-authored by Grant Adams, John Best, and André Punt of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. Their data indicates that the humpback’s population (Megaptera novaeangliae) has bounced back from under 500 to just over 25,000.

Conservationists claim that this estimate is similar to pre-whaling numbers.

Best said:

“We were pleasantly surprised by the comeback; previous studies hadn’t suggested that humpback whales in this region were doing this well,”

Published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the study refutes previous assessments conducted by the International Whaling Commission between 2006 and 2015. The former study claimed that the population had recovered to about 30% of its pre-exploitation numbers.

However, the new data from Adams and his team provide a far more accurate illustration on catches, life-history, and genetics.

Adams, a UW doctoral student who helped construct the new model, said:

“Accounting for pre-modern whaling and struck-and-lost rates where whales were shot or harpooned but escaped and later died, made us realize the population was more productive than we previously believed,”

The authors state that they are hopeful that their new model, built specifically for the study, will be able to be cross referenced to determine population recovery in a variety of other species as well.

Adams stated:

“We believe that transparency in science is important. The software we wrote for this project is available to the public and anyone can reproduce our findings.”

Alex Zerbini, lead author of the UW’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, has firmly emphasized the growing importance of capturing population assessments without bias. Zerbini added that the findings of the study are fantastic news – a clear example of a species rebounding from near-extinction given the right protection and legislation.

Zerbini, who completed this work at the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Mammal Laboratory stated:

“Wildlife populations can recover from exploitation if proper management is applied,”