Lois’ Notes: I think it really important we take note of all the positive changes in our world, like the return of the population of humpbacks from near extinction to a vigorous 24,900 today in the South Atlantic alone. Their population numbered fewer than 500 only 60 years ago. Our consciousness needs to include the positive changes that are happening – yet so often we have the negative shoved in our faces all the time. Let us call this practice “JOYPORN” which will counter all the Fear Porn out there.
After coming dangerously close to the brink of extinction, the humpback whale population in the South Atlantic Ocean has made a stunning rebound, according to scientists.
Around 60 years ago, it was estimated that the western South Atlantic (WSA) humpback whale population had been thinned out to less than 500.
However, a new study published in Royal Society Open Science reveals that the WSA humpbacks, which were “the first major target of commercial whaling in the Antarctic,” now have a population of roughly 24,900 individuals—a breathtaking turnaround for a population that had come remarkably close to disappearing from the world.
Between the late 1700s and mid-1900s, some 300,000 humpback whales were killed by hunters, according to Smithsonian. By 1958, only 440 WSA humpbacks were left.
However, strong protections were put in place in the 1960s, including a worldwide moratorium that drastically curtailed whaling activities. These combined efforts allowed the whales to recover by an estimated 25,000—nearly as many as researcher believe there were prior to the dawn of large-scale commercial whaling.
Even the researchers were stunned by the strength of the population’s resurgence, which they believe could be a model for the recovery of other species threatened by human activities.
Marine biologist Alexandre Zerbini of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who is lead author on a study of the whales’ recovery, told USA Today:
“I hope it serves as an example that we can do the same thing for other animal populations.”
In 2006, a global survey by the International Whaling Commission found that the western South Atlantic humpbacks’ population had only recovered by 30 percent—proof, marine biologists believed, that the whale was unlikely to recover from the massive slaughter that took place over the course of centuries.
Only now have scientists realized how wrong they were. Zerbini said:
“I expected the recovery to be higher than we’d estimated in 2006 … but I wasn’t expecting the almost full recovery we found.”