Humpback whale populations in South Atlantic thriving after near extinction

Driven almost to extinction in the 20 the century, the South Atlantic humpback whale population has significantly rebounded.

The whale's numbers are now estimated to be around 25,000, which is about 93% of its historical population, according to a new study in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Researchers believe the whales numbered about 27,000 in 1830, but through hunting and exploitation, they were reduced to around 450 by the mid-1950s.

In the 1960s, they became a protected species, and all 14 humpback species were listed as endangered by 1970 under the Endangered Species Conservation Act, then under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

By the 1980s, the International Whaling Commission issued a moratorium on all commercial whaling, helping populations recover.

Four out of the 14 distinct populations of humpback whales are still currently protected as endangered, and one is listed as threatened, NOAA reported.

Humpbacks are found in oceans around the world and travel long distances every year, with some populations traveling 5,000 miles from tropical breeding grounds to colder areas for feeding. They feast of krill and small fish by opening their huge mouths and filtering huge amounts of ocean water.

Scientists said continued monitoring of the whales is needed to understand how they respond to modern threats and the impact of climate change on their habitat.

About the Author