A look at the state of one of the ocean’s most magnificent creatures

The early 19th century saw the near loss of the South Atlantic humpback whales from the face of the Earth. It was estimated that nearly 25,000 whales fell prey to the whaling industry that was aggressively operational between 1904-1916.

South Atlantic Humpback Whales

In the 1980s International Whaling Commission stepped in to save the remaining 450 whales from going extinct. One of the protection measures kicked in, and the hunting stopped, this species had bounced back beautifully. It now stands at a number of approximately 25,000, which is a magnificent recovery. New research attempts have shown a significant recovery in their numbers due to the absence of commercial whaling.


The onset of the whaling industry in the 1700s proved fatal for the humpback whale population. An estimated 300,000 whales were killed during this period.


The South Atlantic humpback whales are known to rear their calves and mate during the winter season. The eastern coast of South America is home to these humpback whales for tending to their little ones. While the higher latitudes of the South Atlantic Ocean serves as their feeding grounds where they migrated every year. Places like South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands witness an onslaught of these beautiful large creatures during the summer season. They were hunted for commercial whaling since the 1800s, but the most devastating impact happened during the 1900s.


According to researchers and marine conservationists, the population of the Western South Atlantic humpback whales will nearly recover to its previous glory by the year 2030. Currently, it is estimated to be around 93 percent of its original population count, before the whaling industry rained down upon it.


In 2015 the International Whaling Commission completed compiling an assessment and report of the total number of all the seven humpback whale populations in the Southern Hemisphere. The conclusions of the assessment said that the Western South Atlantic population of humpback whales was just at a mere 30 percent of what it used to be.


These statistics have been possible to gain through several data that was collected on genetics, life-history, population sizes, available catches, struck-lost-rates, etc. over the years. It helped the researchers get a more accurate conclusion as compared to the International Whaling Commission.


According to Alex Zerbini, from NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Mammal Laboratory, these studies are showing promising results of showing the capability of a species to recover from near extinction in a couple of decades. He also adds on to say that with proper preservation steps and management, even wildlife population of several species can recover very nicely from near extinction.


The recovery of these humpback whales across the world, hold very important significance in the balance of the ecosystem. They feed on Antarctic krill which helps restore a balance to the ecosystem. They must feed almost 1.5 to 2.6 million metric tons every season just to maintain their dietary needs. The recovery of the population has had a significant change in the krill population around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It is important to monitor them as any change can also be an indication of potential climate change and weather change.



Awareness should be imparted at an early age—and it’s a must to bring a positive change in the future. Animal school visits are a great idea to get kids aware of the situation of humpback whales. Other options include contacting animal clubs and hosting educational animal parties with crews that will come over with models of different insects, animals and marine creatures, and educate kids about the current state of their habitat and existence in the world.