Rex Dalton reports in the latest issue of Nature:
“Humpback whale numbers in the northern Pacific Ocean have ballooned to nearly 20,000, the largest population seen since the majestic mammals were hunted nearly to extinction half a century ago.
The number of humpbacks hit an all-time low of 1,400 or even lower by 1966, when their hunting was banned internationally. The new census, from one of the largest whale studies ever undertaken, shows that the animals have rebounded much better than expected.[…]
The three-year study, called SPLASH (Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks), involved more than 400 researchers from 10 nations. Its US$3.7-million price tag was paid for with funding from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Canadian government and private sources. It used everything from ocean-going research ships to motorized outrigger canoes to identify whales by their fluke markings, then monitor them from their feeding grounds off Canada and the Aleutian Islands to their winter and breeding grounds off Hawaii, Latin America and Asia.[…]”