Blue Whale

Balaenoptera musculus

The Blue Whale lives in all the world’s oceans. It is considered by some to be the largest animal ever to have evolved on Earth, with the largest recorded individual 33.5 m in length and the heaviest 190,000kg. The species has been plunged to the edge of extinction as a direct consequence of human exploitation. Over 300,000 whales were slaughtered between 1915 - 1965 by the European and eastern Asian whaling fleets, with over 80% of this harvest taken in the decade prior to World War II. Prior to whaling southern hemisphere populations were estimated to consist of about 200,000 individuals, whereas now there may be fewer than 1000. In the northern hemisphere populations are probably even more endangered, with only one – off the coast of California – relatively abundant, whereas other sightings are too rare to make meaningful estimates of northern population sizes. Blue Whales were finally protected internationally as late as 1965 but this may be too late for the future of this species. Numbers may have already been decimated to the extent that its capability to recover is decidedly bleak.

Blue Whales migrate from polar to tropical waters throughout the world. They occur around Australia at various times of the year, with occasional strandings, but these are thought to concern mainly migrating whales and some opportunistic feeding. Some significant aggregation feeding areas occur around upwellings in southern Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria.

Status

Endangered (Commonwealth)

Problem

The Blue Whale, the biggest animal ever to appear on the earth, has been pushed to the edge of extinction through direct exploitation by humans.

Background Information

Over 300,000 Blue Whales were killed between 1915 and 1965 by fleets from Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Britain, Japan and Russia. 80% of the total Blue Whale harvest was taken in the decade prior to World War 2.

The population of Blue Whales in the Southern Hemisphere before whaling was estimated at 200,000. There may be less than 2,300 left.

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