Humpback whales removed from Australia’s endangered species list after remarkable recovery

Humpback whales have been removed from Australia’s endangered species list for the first time in 60 years after an incredible recovery in numbers.

The encouraging announcement follows whale populations in Australian waters soaring to around 40,000 thanks to conservation efforts in the region – although experts warn a warming ocean could undo some of those gains .

The Australian government calls the success “one of the most majestic animal recovery stories ever recorded”.

“This is not about removing safeguards for humpback whales, which are still a protected migratory species, but it is a recognition of the success of the exceptional conservation efforts that are in place,” the minister said. Environment Sussan Ley in a statement.

“At the height of the global whaling industry, there were only 1,500 humpback whales in Australian waters. Today, that population is estimated at 40,000 individuals and continues to grow.”

Humpback whales are found in waters around the world, with large populations in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and southern hemispheres.

Before human whaling activity, it is believed that there were around 125,000 humpback whales, but the population fell sharply after nations began to hunt the large animals for their oil, meat and fish. baleen (the “teeth” of a whale, used for objects that need strength and flexibility).

Only a few countries still hunt them, with Greenland and other smaller countries hunting a few for sustenance and Japan resuming their controversial whaling.

The removal of humpback whales from the endangered species list is a hope for some, while some conservationists believe it may be a premature celebration.

Warming waters due to climate change can have a huge impact on krill populations, which whales depend on for food. Conservation efforts have done an incredible job for the whales, but delisting them may leave them vulnerable as these climate impacts worsen.

“We so appreciate the concerted efforts being made to recover humpback whale populations that we would hate to see those efforts wasted by jumping the gun and removing the whale’s endangered status,” Alexia Wellbelove, campaign director for the activist group Humane Society International, said in a statement reported by the Guardian.

The group may be right, because climate change is already seriously affecting whale populations. A 2021 review suggested that rising sea surface temperatures and shrinking sea ice are driving a “poleward shift” for many cetaceans, with some species favoring the new conditions and others moving closer. of extinction. The changes also affect the migration and breeding habits of whales, directly reducing population sizes.

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