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Ready for some good news? Fin whales are coming back

Folks who follow conservation news closely know that there is a lot of doom and gloom when it comes to species preservation. From the unintended consequences of the Endangered Species Act to poaching, many animals face an uncertain future unless things turn around quickly. But it is not all doom and gloom – sometimes miraculous recoveries happen, and those are worth celebrating. 

The good news this month? Fin whales are back. 

While we are much more familiar with other types of whale species (like blue or humpback whales), fin whales are actually the second-largest species of whale in the ocean according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These beasts weigh 40 to 80 tons, which means they are not just one of the largest animals in the ocean—they are one of the largest animals on the planet. Fin whales get their name from a distinctive fin located on their backs right before the tail. 

The history of these beautiful creatures is tragic. The NOAA explains: 

“Like all large whales, fin whales were hunted by commercial whalers, which severely lowered their populations. Whalers did not target them at first, because they were fast swimmers and lived in open ocean habitats. But, as whaling methods modernized with steam-powered ships and explosive harpoons, and whalers decimated other easy-to-catch species, whaling turned to fin whales. This industry killed a huge number during the mid-1900s—nearly 725,000 in the Southern Hemisphere alone.” 

While fin whales are much more likely to be killed by a vessel strike than whaling today, considering most of the world has done away with the practice, the future of the species still looked grim. It is estimated that only one to two percent of the entire species survived commercial whaling. That type of destruction makes it difficult to restore individual numbers back to their former healthy size. 

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Yet, thanks to conservation efforts over the past decades, the fin whales persisted. Today, significant numbers can be found returning to their ancestral feeding grounds in the waters of Antarctica. In fact, a report published earlier this month noted that scientists have been seeing the creatures feeding in droves, sometimes in clusters of an estimated 150 individuals. “The water around us was boiling, because the animals were coming up all the time,” noted study lead author and University of Hamburg marine mammal ecologist, Dr. Helena Herr. 

Amazing footage from this expedition can be viewed below: 

We all could use some good news, and this is some of the very best we could receive. These massive creatures, once thought to be destined to perish from the face of the earth, are coming back. Fin whales are returning to our oceans, and that is something we can cheer.

Kelvey Vander Hart is a native Iowan, a member of the American Conservation Coalition, and a communications specialist at Reason Foundation.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

Copyright © 2020 Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions

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