Humpback whales from the Southwest Atlantic are back

Humpback whales from the Southwest Atlantic are back


One study suggests that humpback whale populations in the southwestern Atlantic have almost recovered, and the species almost disappeared due to intensive hunting.

There are several populations of humpback whales in the southern hemisphere (Megaptera novaeangliae). And each one presents a different migratory behavior. That of the Southwest Atlantic breeds in winter off the Brazilian coast, before going in summer in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters to feed on krill. It is along this migratory “”road”” that the whales began to meet the men, from 1904.

The species then almost disappeared. Hunters operated mainly from the British overseas territory of South Georgia, killing all animals within harpoon range. It was estimated, before the massacre, about 27,000 the number of these marine animals in Atlantic waters. They were only a handful – perhaps a few hundred – in the middle of the 20th century.

Whales back
But since the early 1960s, hunting is prohibited. A measure that seems to be bearing fruit. A recent study suggests that there are now about 25,000 of these animals in the Atlantic. Almost as much as they were before whaling. It’s a positive story, said Alex Zerbini of the National Marine Fisheries Service and lead author of this report.

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These humpback whales are still on IUCN’s Red List of Species at Risk. But they are now included in the less worrying category.

It remains to be seen what will be the impact of this return to the shape of whales on the dynamics of their ecosystem. Because they are large consumers of krill, this source of food could be reduced for other predators, such as penguins and other fur seals that also frequent the area.

It should also be remembered that the ban on hunting in the 1960s seems to have benefited Antarctic humpback whales. A study published last year has indeed revealed that the species began to recover gradually from its near-extinction in the last century.

The researchers also pointed out that this rebound was partly to the credit of global warming, which provides an average of 80 days more without ice per year, allowing whales to feed on krill more easily. Which benefits to the pregnancies.