BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Orcas Vs Humpbacks -

Hump­backs are slow swim­mers com­pared with species such as fin and blue whales, and were heav­ily ex­ploited by whalers from the 1920s to the 1950s. Dwin­dling num­bers led to world­wide pro­tec­tion in the 1960s, though some sub­sis­tence fish­ers were al­lowed to go on tak­ing small num­bers. Since then most pop­u­la­tions have shown a strong re­cov­ery, par­tic­u­larly in Western Aus­tralia, South Amer­ica and Southern Africa.

Be­fore in­dus­trial whal­ing the hump­back pop­u­la­tion of Western Aus­tralia was es­ti­mated at 21,686 whales. By the time the whal­ing stopped in 1963 there were thought to be just 568 in­di­vid­u­als. Since then the pop­u­la­tion has grown about 10 per cent an­nu­ally (mea­sured 1999–2008) and has reached an es­ti­mated 22,000–30,000.

Be­cause oceans are vast and whales spend much of their time un­der the sur­face, it’s im­pos­si­ble to know ex­act num­bers, but the Western Aus­tralia pop­u­la­tion is now the largest breed­ing pop­u­la­tion in the world. Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Whal­ing Com­mis­sion, the re­bound in hump­back num­bers world­wide is tak­ing pop­u­la­tions back to­wards es­ti­mated pre-whal­ing lev­els of 75,000–100,000.

De­cem­ber 2015

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