A Remarkable Recovery of Humpback Whales
Historically, industrial whaling posed a monumental threat to great whale populations, leading to the near-extinction of many species in the Southern Hemisphere. The aftermath of this practice left whale populations dwindling, with numbers only a shadow of their pre-whaling glory. Fast forward to today, and there’s a silver lining. Humpback whales, against all odds, are making a comeback. Australia’s coasts are witnessing record numbers of these majestic creatures during their annual migration to the Southern Ocean’s feeding grounds. This resurgence is a testament to global conservation efforts and the halt of commercial whaling.
The steady growth of whale populations has had a positive impact on the whale-watching industry, instilling optimism for future tourism driven by enthusiastic whales. Whales support a thriving whale-watching industry, which is practiced in 119 countries worldwide. To ensure their ongoing recovery and guarantee the long-term success of the industry, it is crucial to manage and protect whale populations.
From Brink to Boom
From only approximately 150 humpback whale individuals in the eastern Australian waters, humpback whale numbers have increased to an impressive 40,000. However, the journey isn’t over. While we revel in this success, it’s vital to continue our research and conservation endeavors. There remain mysteries about these marine giants that only sustained research can unravel.
Human impacts on whales
Although humpback whales have recovered, they are still threatened by various human activities. For instance, entanglements in fishing gear are a significant threat to whales, with large whales such as humpback whales being particularly vulnerable. Collisions with ships are also a concern, with anecdotal reports for most whale species. The impacts of seismic surveys, which are conducted by the oil and gas industry, on humpback whales have also been under scrutiny. Humpback whales rely heavily on sound for communication, and noise from seismic surveys can interfere with their communication ability, potentially disrupting their breeding and feeding behavior.
The humpback whale’s migration is a feat of nature. Covering an astonishing 8,300 km, these whales undertake the longest mammal migration. During the austral winter, they head north to warmer waters, providing a haven for calf development and evading killer whale predation. Come austral summer, and they’re back in the Southern Ocean, lured by the abundance of krill. This cyclical journey underscores the intricate balance of nature and the whale’s adaptability in their quest for survival.