Whales rebound

    In a new report this month, scientists say blue whale populations may be on the mend.

    Scientists have recorded evidence suggesting that blue whale populations may be increasing. In a study this month, they attribute this possible rebound to bans on hunting. WHYY has more on the hazards that remain for whales.
    (Photo: Gray Whale/NOAA)

    Listen: [audio:091221kgwhale.mp3]

    The California gray whale is considered a conservation success story. The animals were once on the endangered list, but now have healthy population numbers.

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    Blue whales — the largest animals on earth — also appear to be rebounding after hunters nearly decimated their numbers. Whaling nearly wiped out the mammals in the early 20th century, but bans on hunting are contributing to their recovery.

    Whales around the globe still face other hazards. Jeremy Firestone is a University of Delaware professor.

    Firestone: There are other whale populations like the North American right whale which remain critically endangered with a very low population, with 300 to 400 members in a species.

    Strikes from ships are a major hazard to right whales, but biologists in New England have also found modest increases in their population.

    Firestone says climate change is likely to have a negative impact on whales, especially those in the arctic.

    Firestone: One of the consequences of climate change is the melting of arctic ice and that can lead to greater ship traffic in the arctic, putting at risk those whales that live and migrate through the arctic ocean.

    The mid-Atlantic is a major traffic route for migrating whales. Ship strikes occasionally cause them to wash ashore on New Jersey and Delaware beaches.

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