The study's conclusion gives us hope that there is a possibility of animals increasing in number, even if they are near extinction.
Conservationists, along with the whole world, are now rejoicing because they have some great news. According to the Good News Network, new research showed that whales in the South Atlantic have rebounded from the brink of extinction. The early 90s was the era of intense whaling and the numbers diminished rapidly. The western South Atlantic population of humpbacks diminish to only 450 whales, after approximately 25,000 of the mammals were hunted within 12 years. From the 1960s, protections were put in place for these mammals after scientists worldwide noticed that they were rapidly decreasing in number.
This also led to the International Whaling Commission issuing a moratorium on commercial whaling in the mid-1980s hoping to safeguard the existing population of whales. A new study co-authored by Grant Adams, John Best, and André Punt from the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences revealed that the species’ population has now reached 25,000 in number. According to researchers, this new estimate is now close to pre-whaling numbers.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the comeback; previous studies hadn’t suggested that humpback whales in this region were doing this well,” Best told Good News Network in an email. The study, published last month in the journal Royal Society Open Science, contradicts a previous evaluation conducted by the International Whaling Commission between 2006 and 2015 which suggested that the population had only recovered to about 30% of its pre-exploitation numbers.
Since the assessment was completed, new data has come to light, and it provides more accurate information on catches, genetics, and life-history. “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,” said Adams, a UW doctoral student who helped construct the new model.
The study also included detailed records from the whaling industry at the outset of commercial exploitation, and the current population estimates are made from a combination of air- and ship-based surveys, along with advanced modeling techniques. The authors believe that the model used to conduct this study can be used on other animals as well. “We believe that transparency in science is important,” said Adams. “The software we wrote for this project is available to the public and anyone can reproduce our findings.”
Lead author Alex Zerbini, of the UW’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, stressed the importance of providing population assessments without biases. However, he also added that this conclusion comes with good news and gives us hope that there is a possibility of animals increasing in number, even if they are near extinction, like the koalas in Australia currently are. The recent bushfires there destroyed 80% of their habitat.