Once Facing Extinction, Massive Fin Whales Have Returned to Antarctic Waters


After being driven to the brink of extinction, fin whales, the second-largest creatures on Earth, have returned to their ancestral feeding grounds around the Antarctic Peninsula.

From 1904 to 1976, when industrial whaling took place in the Southern Ocean, whalers killed an estimated 700,000 fin whales, reducing their population to around 1 percent of its previous size. The whales, which can grow to more than 80 feet in length, all but disappeared from the Southern Ocean.

In 1982, the International Whaling Commissions voted to ban commercial whaling, and in recent years, scientists have seen fin whales starting to make a comeback.

Scientists at the University of Hamburg traveled to the Antarctic Peninsula in 2018 and 2019 to track fin whales using aerial surveys. They counted 100 groups of one to four fin whales, as well as several larger groups, including one near Elephant Island comprising 150 whales. Their findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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