It’s always a concern when an animal becomes endangered. If things don’t change, we risk them becoming extinct and disappearing forever. Thankfully, there have been instances where we’ve managed to turn the tide before it’s too late. The humpback whale is a recent example of this and is definitely a cause for celebration.
Commercial whaling contributed to the decline of humpback whales
For an animal to become endangered, something has to happen to reduce its number significantly. For humpback whales, the issue was commercial whaling. There used to be few restrictions on this, meaning that boats were free to take these animals out without any repercussions. Unfortunately, the rate at which this was happening was greater than the rate at which the creatures were repopulating. As a result, their numbers kept dwindling until they dropped so low that the whales were listed as endangered in 1970.
A moratorium placed on a ban on commercial whaling in the 1980s
With the humpback whales listed as endangered, time was running out to stop them from becoming extinct. That’s when the International Whaling Commission took action. In the 1980s, they established a moratorium that effectively banned whaling so that the creatures could increase in number once again. This came into place in the mid-’80s and is still in effect today. Given that 2.9 million whales reportedly lost their lives in the 20th century because of commercial whaling, the moratorium was essential. If it didn’t exist, the situation today would probably be incredibly different.
Several countries opposed the IWC’s moratorium
Unfortunately, not everyone has been hugely supportive of the moratorium. Some countries have been reluctant to give up commercial whaling, including Japan. That’s why they left the International Whaling Commission several years ago. No longer having to abide by the rules enforced by the IWC, they’ve returned to hunting down these animals. Other countries that desire to put their own needs ahead of the survival of these creatures include Norway and Iceland. The former apparently registered an objection to the moratorium, while the latter lodged a “reservation,” meaning a return to commercial whaling for them.
Humpback whales have grown significantly in number thanks to conservation efforts
Thankfully, despite some countries trying to throw a spanner in the works, the situation with the humpback whales is not the same as it was in the 1980s. Back then, many of the populations were reduced by more than 95%. Nowadays, though, the humpback whale is largely listed as being of least concern. It varies between countries, with the animals thriving more in some regions than others. This is evidently the impact of commercial whaling, although issues like noise pollution and boat collision do also impact population numbers. Luckily, continued conservation efforts are helping to ensure that the damage is minimal so the whales can continue to thrive.
The humpback whales are in a much better position than they used to be. However, we have to ensure that conservation efforts continue to keep them safe if we want to avoid a repeat of past mistakes.