Daniel Cressey, NATURE.COM
Blue whales along the US west coast seem to have recovered from decades of hunting, surprising researchers and regulators who had listed them as threatened.
The population of Balaenoptera musculus, the largest animal known to have ever existed, was devastated by whaling. In addition to the global whaling ban, the hunting of blue whales is now legally protected in the US amid widespread fears over the impact of collisions with ships on its long term survival.
The blue whale population in the eastern North Pacific is considered ‘depleted’ under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the species is listed as endangered on the definitive ‘red list’ curated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as well as being included in the US Endangered Species Act.
But in a surprising finding published today in Marine Mammal Science, a team at the University of Washington in Seattle suggests that the current eastern North Pacific population of around 2,200 blue whales is probably at 97% of the size the ecosystem can actually support1.