Through all of the chaotic and ill-fated news on the internet, it’s amazing to hear that a marine species that were near extinction bounce back and have its population increase in great numbers. New research showed that the humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) located in the South Atlantic came back from near extinction.
Because of the whaling industry in the early 1900s, the South Atlantic humpback whale population decreased to about 450. More than 25,000 of these mammals were hunted down within 12 years.
Scientists discovered that the populations of whales were decreasing worldwide in the 1960s. The International Whaling Commission delivered a moratorium in the mid-1980s on all commercial whaling. More protections were later approved and added to stop the decrease in population.
Research that was co-authored by John Best, Grant Adams, and André Punt of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences showed that the population of the species came back to 25,000. Pre conservationists claim that the estimate of the entire population of whales is close to the pre-whaling numbers.
Best claimed that “We were pleasantly surprised by the comeback; previous studies hadn’t suggested that humpback whales in this region were doing this well.”
This research was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal and disproves the last assessment made by the International Whaling Commission in 2006-2015 which claimed that the species’ population only recovered 30% of its pre-exploitation numbers. With this new data, we can get more accurate information on genetics, life-history, and catches.
Adams, a UW doctoral student that helped with the construction of the new model, says that “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 that built the model hope that it can be used to determine the recovery of the population for other species as well. Adams claims that “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, the lead author, gave great importance to the capturing population assessment without biases, claiming that the new findings are amazing news. This is a great example of how a near-extinct species can bounce back.
“Wildlife populations can recover from exploitation if proper management is applied,” said Zerbini.