Australia's humpback whales no longer considered endangered

Written by Oceanographic Staff

Following a remarkable improvement in their numbers after decades of whaling, humpback whales have been removed from Australia’s threatened species list.

“At the height of the global whaling industry there were as few as 1,500 humpback whales in Australian waters, today that population is believed to be as many as 40,000 individuals and growing,” said Australia’s environment minister Sussan Ley. The removal of humpback whales from the threatened species list was, according to Ley, “a recognition of the success of the outstanding conservation efforts that are in place”.

Commercial whaling that took place in the 19th and early 20th century brought numerous whale species close to the brink of extinction throughout the southern ocean. During that time, over 30,000 humpback whales were killed around Australia and New Zealand. In 1963, local whaling operations stopped fishing humpback whales, while the species gained international protection in 1965. Australia further went on to implement an anti-whaling policy in 1979.

These measures led to the widespread recovery of whale numbers. However, conservationists warn that global warming could affect this positive change significantly by impacting krill Antarctica’s krill populations, an important feeding ground for humpbacks, and urge to put further protection measures in place that complement the international and domestic protections that remain in place to protect the species.

“This is not about removing safeguards for humpbacks, which are still a protected migratory species, but it is a recognition of the success of the outstanding conservation efforts that are in place,” Ley explained. “Our removal of the humpback from the threatened species list is based on science and sends a clear signal about what can be achieved through coordinated action. It is a message of hope for the welfare of a number of species.”

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Photography courtesy of Unsplash.

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