International whaling bans have been in effect since the early 1980s, but many populations have been slow to recover. Using the current International Whaling Commission database and other sources, a new study helps explain why. Basically, we killed a lot more whales than we realized. According to the study’s abstract: In sum, we estimate that nearly 2.9 million large whales were killed and processed during the period 1900–99. Of this total, 276,442 were killed in the North Atlantic, 563,696 in the North Pacific, and 2,053,956 in the Southern Hemisphere. The years 1925–39 in the Southern Hemisphere and 1946–75 in both hemispheres saw the highest totals of whales killed. For the entire 20th century, the largest catches were of fin, Balaenoptera physalus, and sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus, with 874,068 and 761,523 taken, respectively; these comprised more than half the total of all large whales taken. Advertisement Previous estimates for whale slaughter in the 20th century were much lower, but apparently, older studies lacked accurate reporting numbers from the Soviet Union, which we now know conducted extensive illegal whaling for nearly 30 years following World War II. Whales are long-lived animals that reproduce slowly and, because of their large size, have naturally… Read full this story
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