In the 19th and early 20th century the Blue whale was almost hunted to extinction, now they appear to be making a come back in the Coastal waters of South Georgia.
Located in the Southern Ocean close to Antarctica this tiny outpost has long been a wildlife haven and a popular site for whales to congregate. This unfortunately attracted the unwanted attention of whalers who decimated the whale numbers in the area and in particular the blue whale. Some estimates suggest that up to 97% of the population were killed. When the Norwegian explorer and whaler Carl Larsen first visited the island of South Georgia, he was so impressed by the number of whales there he said “I see them in hundreds and thousands”. The whaling stations on the island closed down in the early 20th century. New tighter regulations have also since been implemented, in an attempt to bring the blue whale, among others, back from the brink.
In the 2017/18 the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) began tracking the number of blue whales in the area along with Humpback and Southern Right Whales. On their first of three expeditions only one Blue whale was sighted, fast forward to the most recent expedition and there were 55 of these magnificent creatures sighted.
Dr Jen Jackson of BAS said
“What is clear is that protection from whaling has worked with densities of humpbacks in particular similar to those of a century ago and we are thrilled to see them at South Georgia again, Continued protection and monitoring is required to see if this unprecedented number of blue whales sightings is a long-term trend, as we see in humpbacks.’For such a rare species, this marks an ‘unprecedented’ number of sightings.”
Researchers also stated.
“It suggests blue whales are returning to their old feeding grounds at South Georgia which suggests it’s still an area with abundant food for them to eat. Relative to many other oceans on the planet, the Southern Ocean is still relatively pristine, so it still has capacity to support large numbers of whales.
A new assessment of Antarctic blue whale recovery will be conducted by the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee next year in order to find out how well the population is recovering from exploitation.
Photo Credits: MS Fram & Jose Antonio Duarte Fehrs Facebook posts