The recovery of Antarctica’s giants – baleen whales
- Baleen whales are predominately summer visitors to Antarctic waters, where they feed on large swarms of zooplankton, primarily Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superba).
- Over 2 million whales were killed in Southern Hemisphere whaling operations in the 20th Century 1.
- Many species were brought to the edge of extinction as a result of this commercial exploitation 2,3.
- The IUCN categorise the main Antarctic baleen whale species: (i) Antarctic blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia) as Critically Endangered; (ii) fin whales ( physalus) as Vulnerable; (iii) humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) as Least Concern; (iv) southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) as Least Concern, although the sub-population in Chile and Peru is Critically Endangered; (v); sei whales (B. borealis) as Endangered; (vi) Antarctic minke whales (B. bonaerensis) as Near Threatened; (vii) common minke whales (B. acutorostrata) as Unknown; and (viii) pygmy blue whales (B. musculus brevicauda) as Data Deficient.
- Many Antarctic baleen whale populations are showing signs of recovery 4-6, but ongoing monitoring is essential so trends can be closely tracked because they face threats from climate change and direct anthropogenic impacts.
Authors: Bamford, Connor ORCID record for Connor Bamford, Kelly, Nat, Herr, Helena, Seyboth, Elisa, Jackson, Jennifer A. ORCID record for Jennifer A. Jackson