The seriously endangered blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived, is making a comeback, say marine scientists.
According to the British Antarctic Survey, a total of 55 blue whales have been observed or recorded in the past year that have studied whale movements in waters around South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic.
South Georgia was once abundant with whaling activity, but the hunt almost killed the animals.
Now populations of blue whale, as well as humpback and southern right whales, can be close to a full recovery around the island.
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The blue whale is the largest animal known to have ever existed, at 98 feet long, and re-tunes to healthy population sizes after it is nearly eradicated
When Antarctic explorer and whaler Carl Larsen first visited South Georgia, he was so impressed by the density of whales that he said, “I see them in hundreds and thousands.”
WHAT IS THE BLUE WHALE?
The blue whale is a seriously endangered marine mammal.
It is the largest animal known to have ever existed.
It reaches a maximum length of 98 feet – the same length as two and a half London buses.
They were nearly whined out by whale hunting until the International Whaling Commission banned all hunting of blue whales in 1967.
“Clearly, whale protection has worked with humpback densities, particularly similar to those of a century ago, and we are excited to see them again in South Georgia,” said Dr. Jen Jackson of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
“Continuous protection and monitoring is required to see if this unprecedented number of blue whales is a long-term trend, as we see in humpback whales.”
The BAS whale tracking project, which lasted the last three winters, followed the three types of whale – blue, humpback and southern right – by sightings and recorded audio of their characteristic song.
Despite the fact that the seriously endangered blue whale was only observed once during the first investigation of South Georgia during the first BAS expedition of 2017-18, the third and last expedition observed it 55 times.
For such a rare species, this means an ‘unprecedented’ number of observations.
“To think that in a 40 or 50 year period I only had data on two sightings of blue whales in South Georgia,” said whale specialist Dr. Trevor Branch of the University of Washington, Seattle BBC.
Humpback adults (photo) range in length from 39 to 52 feet. The males produce a complex song of 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time
WHAT ARE HUMPBACK WHALE?
The humpback whale is a type of whale whale with a distinctive body shape.
Humpback whales usually range from 39 to 52 feet long and weigh around 36 tons.
It is known for its extensive costumes and displays.
Men produce a complex number of 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time.
Humpbacks undertake long migrations between polar feeding grounds in the summer and tropical or sub-tropical breeding grounds in the winter.
“Since 2007 there may have been a few more isolated observations.
“It’s amazing to go from essentially nothing to 55 in one year.”
As far as humpback whales are concerned, this species is now a common occurrence in South Georgia, with 790 reported during 21 days of research this season.
High densities of humpback whales were seen in 2019 and 2020, with estimates indicating that more than 20,000 of these whales are in the water.
South Georgia is now one of the most important feeding grounds for humpback whales in the southwest Atlantic and they have been almost fully recovered.
“It is clear that whale protection has worked, with humpbacks now seen in densities similar to those of a century ago, when whaling first began in South Georgia,” Dr. said. Jackson.
The southern right whale was regularly seen in 2018, but was rarely seen this last year.
This may be because they prefer to feed elsewhere, but the data will be further analyzed to better understand the feeding behavior.
A spy hop of the right whale in the waters of South Georgia in the Right Whale project in South Georgia
WHAT ARE SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE FISH?
The southern right whale is a type of whale that was once eradicated by people.
Hunting for the ocean giants was prohibited in 1935, but the illegal Russian whaling continued until the end of the seventies.
South right whales are huge and measure up to 56 feet (17 m) long for a mature woman or 49 feet (15 m) for a man.
They can weigh 90,000 kg (90 tonnes).
South right whales were so called because they were historically seen as the “right” whales to hunt because of their slow swimming speed and curious nature.
The researchers were also able to apply tags to two southerly correct whales during the 2019-2020 winter season, and their movements can be followed online.
The team had followed two humpback whales the previous season and, unbelievably, followed one while migrating north to Brazil.
South Georgia is an important summer feeding place for multiple whale species, but a whale industry on the island killed more than 176,000 of the creatures in 60 years.
The number of whale sightings began to rise in the 1990s and since then the South Georgia museum has been collecting sightings.
Over the course of three seasons, the most recent BAS expedition was the most successful, with bad weather hindering the first and smaller areas explored in the second.
The team was able to navigate more than 23 days of good weather during the last season, of which the explorers returned just a few weeks ago.
The international BAS project includes scientists from the University of Auckland, the University of Washington, the University of St. Andrews, the University of Rio Grande do Norte, the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences and the University of Barcelona.