Blue whales have historically been targeted by whalers from across the globe, and as a result have nearly been hunted into extinction. However, according to uplifting new research from the University of Washington, the population of blue whales living off of the coast of California has risen to near historic levels, making this the first population of blue whales to have fully recovered from rampant whaling in decades past.
Blue whales, reaching lengths of around 100 feet and weights of around 200 tons as adults, are the largest animals on the planet. They’re also the heaviest, weighing more than twice as much as the largest known dinosaur, the Argentinosaurus. According to Trevor Branch, an assistant professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington, blue whales have become an icon of the conservation movement.
“Four decades of recovery have worked well,” says Trevor Branch. “We’re pretty lucky off this coast. People can go out in boats and take lots and lots of pictures of blue whales. And they have unique markings on the sides, so you can tell when you’ve re-sighted the same blue whale. You can use a bit of math and those photographs to come up with current numbers.”
“The recovery of California blue whales from whaling demonstrates the ability of blue whale populations to rebuild under careful management and conservation measures,” said Cole Monnahan, a doctoral student in quantitative ecology and resource management at the University of Washington and lead author of a paper on the subject posted online September 5 by the journal Marine Mammal Science.
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