A humpback whale
Unsplash | Thomas Kelley

Humpback Whales Taken Off Threatened Species List After Huge Population Rebound

New data shows that conservation efforts have been working, as the humpback whale has been removed from Australia's threatened species list after a massive population boom.

This doesn't mean that these giant whales are no longer in danger, but it's an encouraging sign nonetheless.

Whales were hunted to the point of near-extinction.

An old encyclopedia illustration of a humpback whale
Wikimedia Commons | 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica volume 13, "Humpback Whale" article, page 891

Whaling has largely fallen out of practice in the modern world, but it was a massive industry in the past. The unchecked slaughter of whales, combined with other hazards, had many whale species on the brink of extinction.

Humpback whales have been considered an endangered species.

A school of humpback whales
Unsplash | guille pozzi

These massive whales can be found in all of the world's oceans and were historically a favorite target for whalers. While their numbers are increasing, they're still considered an endangered species by some countries, including the United States.

Populations have struggled in Oceania.

A map of Oceania
Wikimedia Commons | Ch1902

While numbers on the whole have been increasing, humpback whales were considered endangered by Australia.

"Some of the threats that whales face globally include ship strike, entanglement in fishing gear, acoustic pollution, marine pollution and, of course, climate change," marine scientist Vanessa Pirotta told ABC News.

How does climate change affect whales?

A humpback whale tail
Unsplash | Rod Long

Because whales are high on the food chain, any disruptions to food sources can make them vulnerable. Warmer temperatures have led to a reduction in Antarctic krill, which is a major food source for humpback whales.

Numbers are on the rise in Oceania.

Humpback whales
Unsplash | Fernando Gutierrez

Careful monitoring has shown Australian conservation authorities that humpback whale populations are looking good — numbers have rebounded from a low of 1,500 to about 40,000 today. Environment Minister Sussan Ley says that while humpback whales will be removed from the threatened species list, they'll still be protected in Australian waters.

Did the decision come too soon?

A humpback whale
Unsplash | Thomas Kelley

There was chatter about delisting humpback whales last year in Australia, and some conservationists feared that the move might come too soon. Even with growing populations, humpback whales still face an uphill battle.

How many humpback whales exist?

A group of humpback whales
Unsplash | Vivek Kumar

Worldwide, there are an estimated 84,000 humpback whales. This number is growing, and slowly approaching 125,000 — the estimated global population before the advent of whaling.

h/t: ABC News, The Guardian

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