Monday, 28 July 2014

Why Are Whales Not Recovering? (Op-Ed)

By Luke Rendell, University of St Andrews | July 26, 2014 04:00am ET

This article was originally published at The Conversation.The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

When commercial whaling was banned in 1986 it put an end to a harvest that threatened the existence of some of the most majestic animals on Earth. With several species reduced to tiny fractions of their original populations, once the moratorium was introduced the expectation was that whale populations would recover. But in the decades since, only some have.

There are many possible reasons why this might be, including chemical pollution, climate change, man-made noise, and loss of cultural knowledge among whales that prevent their descendants returning to habitats in their former range. A further risk, highlighted by a new study of blue whales off the coast of California, is deaths and injury caused by being struck by ships. In most populations, we don’t yet know how big a problem it is, but for some it is almost certainly holding back recovery.

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