Thursday, 17 March 2016

Slow path to recovery for southern right whales

The first population assessment of New Zealand southern right whales since the heyday of whaling

Date: March 15, 2016
Source: British Antarctic Survey

The first population assessment since the end of the whaling era reveals that New Zealand southern right whales have some way to go before numbers return to pre-industrial levels. Reporting this week in Royal Society Open Science scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the University of Auckland, Oregon State University and the University of St Andrews, explain how they used historic logbook records from whaling ships and computer modelling to compare population numbers.

The New Zealand southern right whale was particularly exploited in the nineteenth century when demand was high for oil extracted from its blubber. They were killed on the high seas and especially in sheltered bays where females were vulnerable while caring for their young calves. So it was easy for people to row out from the shore and kill them and for whale ships to hunt them on the open ocean. The term "right whale" was coined because they were so easy to hunt.





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