Blue Whales Bounce Back After Near Extinction

Record high number of endangered blue whales spotted in sub-antarctic waters.

After being hunted to near extinction, the world’s largest animal ever-t0-have-lived is making a comeback.

Scientists are recording a high number of critically endangered blue whales off the coast of the sub-antarctic island of South Georgia.

An astonishing 55 whales were recently sighted in a 23-day period by The British Arctic Survey, who study whale movements off the island. That’s compared to a handful of sightings in the area in the last 50 years.

Credit: M.Collins/BAS South Georgia Whale Project
Credit: M.Collins/BAS South Georgia Whale Project

These waters were once home to nearly a quarter million of the majestic creatures. But, in the early 20th century, boats armed with steam-powered harpoons decimated their population to near-extinction.

But the whales have apparently rebounded since commercial whaling was banned in 1966.

“To witness 55 of them now return to what was once a pre-eminent feeding ground for the population has been truly, truly amazing,” cetacean specialist Trevor Branch told BBC News.

“To think that in a period of 40 or 50 years, I only had records for two sightings of blue whales around South Georgia. Since 2007, there have been maybe a couple more isolated sightings. So to go from basically nothing to 55 in one year is astonishing.”

Populations of the  humpback and southern right whales may also be close to a full recovery around the island.