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Can the blue whale's comeback provide clues on saving other species?

The blue whale is the largest animal on the planet, and once faced extinction due to commercial whaling.
Can the blue whale's comeback provide clues on saving other species?
Posted at 1:49 PM, Jul 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-07 10:54:06-04

Blue whales were once almost lost as a species due to worldwide commercial whaling activities in the early 1900s.

"It was subject to whaling so humans almost drove it extinct," said Catherine Kilduff, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. The center is a nonprofit known for efforts to protect endangered species.

While the number of blue whales is still small compared to before commercial whaling, the population is increasing around the world, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As the largest animals on this planet, they are a sight that attracts many. Recent reports have found a resurgence of the species off the Pacific Coast.

So how did the species make a comeback, and are there lessons to be learned for other dying species?

"I think it's a really optimistic lesson to take away from the blue whale because once humans stopped intentionally killing them, they started to come back," Kilduff said.

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The blue whale is still listed as endangered, but is protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973 to protect and conserve at-risk species.

Not only does it prevent the species from being harmed and killed, but it also protects critical habitat areas to help with recovery.

"The vast majority of the animals that are out on the endangered species list don't go extinct," Kilduff said.

In 50 years of the Endangered Species Act being in place, the Act has been credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. This includes the bald eagle and American alligator.

However, the blue whale currently faces other threats.

"The emerging threats like fishing gear entanglement and ship strikes mean that that recovery is really at risk," Kilduff said. Other threats also include pollution and climate change, according to NOAA.

SEE MORE: The Endangered Species Act turns 50 this year


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