Southwest Atlantic humpback whales on recovery path

BBC News –

One of the whale populations taken to the edge of extinction by commercial hunting in the early 20th Century has essentially recovered its numbers.

It’s estimated the humpbacks that frequent the southwest Atlantic once totalled perhaps 27,000 animals.

This group was reduced to only a few hundred by the steam-driven boats and harpoons operating out of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia.

But a new study suggests the humpbacks are back close to where they were.

It’s reckoned there are now just short of 25,000 individuals in the southwest Atlantic – more than 90% of the pre-exploitation level.

“It’s a positive story,” said Dr Alex Zerbini, the report’s lead author from the National Marine Fisheries Service, part of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

There are seven Southern Hemisphere populations of humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae), each of which can be described by their distinct genetics and migratory behaviour.

This particular group has a winter breeding ground off the coast of Brazil, and travels to sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters in summer to gorge on the regions’ swarms of krill crustaceans.

Read more