Blue whale numbers are on the rise, as the species makes an incredible fight back against extinction.

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has found an ‘unprecedented’ amount of the whales in South Georgia after recent years saw a 97% decrease in their numbers.



Whale project leader Dr Jennifer Jackson, a whale ecologist at BAS, said:

After three years of surveys, we are thrilled to see so many whales visiting South Georgia to feed again. This is a place where both whaling and sealing were carried out extensively.

It is clear that protection from whaling has worked, with humpback whales now seen at densities similar to those a century earlier, when whaling first began at South Georgia.

Blue whales have long been hunted for their sought after blubber, baleen and meat, which saw 176,000 killed in just 60 years.

In 1986, commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which has evidently helped the species grow in number.

WhalingPA images

In 2018 only a single blue whale was spotted during a BAS survey, however this year’s survey saw an optimistic 36 separate sightings, with 55 individual blue whales sighted. Blue whales can grow up to a whopping 98 feet in length, so it’s safe to say they shouldn’t be too difficult to spot.

On a sadder note, despite a 30-year ongoing commercial whaling ban in place, countries like Norway, Japan and Iceland still continued to undertake it and have lodged official objections to the ban.



They claimed they continued it for for scientific purposes, but Iceland officially resumed its commercial whaling back in 2006.

Scientific whaling

The WWF reported that more than 31,000 whales have been killed by countries who continued whaling since the ban (also known as the moratorium) came into place.

However, despite having what’s known as a scientific permit for whaling, the WWF argues Norway and Japan did it for ‘politics, not science’.



It said:

Under another provision of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling, some nations have continued to hunt whales using the “scientific permit” exception.

This system allows nations to grant their whalers permits to conduct scientific studies, with the express understanding that the whales taken should be “processed” “so far as practicable”. In this way, whales may be taken and their meat and products commercially sold. Accusations have been made that Japan is using scientific permits as a way around the moratorium.

[…] These countries claim that the catches are essential to obtain necessary information for research and future cetacean management.

Despite having a scientific permit, in June 2019 Japan announced it was also officially resuming commercial whaling.

Blue Whales Bouncing Back From Brink Of Extinction After Decades Of DeclinePexels

According to the BBC, Japan’s whaling ships had a permit to catch 227 minke, Bryde’s and sei whales last year in Japanese waters.

Upon resuming commercial whaling, Japan removed itself from the IWC, meaning it no longer needed to abide by their rules.



Japan has long argued it is possible to hunt whales in a sustainable way, despite species like the blue whale being classed as critically endangered.