Humpback whales are close to losing endangered status

Since it began in earnest in the early 20th century, whaling of the South Atlantic Humpback has brought the magnificent species to near extinction, and caused immeasurable damage to the oceans' ecosystems as a result. But conservation efforts in the years since have paid dividends, and experts now say that the marine mammal's population is recovering well.


A Whale Breaching unsplash.com

A new report is saying that endangered Humpback whales are rebounding from being nearly extinct.

Whaling in the South Atlantic goes all the way back to the 18th century when the British and French industrialized the practice. And beginning in 1904 it is estimated that 25,000 South Atlantic Humpbacks were captured over just 12 years. That's a little over 2,000 per year, a staggering number.

By 1964 the entire global population of Humpbacks was reduced to just 5,000Humpback was down to 440, and South Atlantic. Causing the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which regulated the whaling industry, to ban the fishing of Humpbacks altogether.

In 1970 the whale was placed on the endangered species list. But it took until 1985 to ban all whaling, by then the world's whale populations were reduced by an estimated 95%, and some species were completely extinct.

The result on the environment included degradation of habitats, and yes, it affected global warming as well. Some experts report that 160k tons of carbon would be removed from the atmosphere per year if whale populations are restored to pre-whaling levels.

That's the bad news.



The good news is that since the ban on whaling, whales have seen quite the comeback. Where the South Atlantic group was nearly gone in the mid-twentieth century a study has found that the population is back to 30% of the pre-whaling strength, with a number something like 25,000 individuals.

NOAA's Alexandre Zerbini told The USA Today that, "This is a clear example that if we do the right thing then the population will recover. I hope it serves as an example that we can do the same thing for other animal populations."

And we don't really know what the ultimate effect of the increase of whale populations yet. There are more studies that need to be done. However, we can be sure that some of the damage that has been done can be reversed and perhaps improved.

We need to remain vigilant, the WSA humpback is nearly off the endangered species list, not fully off of it. Efforts to conserve and rehabilitate populations of the entire species must continue, if not accelerate altogether.

For now, however we can simply enjoy the fact that this amazing animal is actively reviving in its environment and helping make the planet stronger for all of us.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

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