Since 1972, when commercial whaling was outlawed internationally, Australia’s east and west coast humpback populations have recovered by 63 and 90 percent respectively, as compared to pre-whaling numbers. Ecologist Ari Friedlaender and colleagues argue in a new study that because Australia’s humpback populations are nearly back to normal, the money and attention currently being devoted to them could be directed elsewhere. He also says that down-listing the whales, or removing their “threatened” designation entirely, would give hope to other conservation efforts.
“These success stories are important for the animals themselves, but also to legitimize conservation biology, and conservation practices,” he says. “It’s a trophy to be able to say, ‘Look, we did this. We’ve done our job, it’s time to refocus,’” he says.
But would the gains Australia’s humpbacks have seen over the past four decades hold if they are taken off the threatened species list?