whales, hunting, extinction

Whales May Be Recovering From Near-Extinction

August 14, 2008 02:58 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Curbs on hunting in the 1980s may have saved several varieties of the animal from the threat of extinction.

Some Whale Species Making Comebacks

Large whales such as the humpback, minke and southern right whale are among those reportedly in recovery, thanks to hunting regulations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said Tuesday.

“For the large whales the picture looks guardedly optimistic,” Randall Reeves, chair of the cetacean specialist group of the IUCN, told Reuters.

According to the IUCN’s new “Red List” of endangered species, the humpback whale is now in the category of “least concern” instead of vulnerable, and the southern right whale and the common minke whale were moved from “lower risk” to “least concern.”

At a July meeting of the International Whaling Commission in July, some conservationists urged the ending of the ban on whale hunting that was set in 1986. They argued that ending the ban would allow for tighter controls and monitoring that could save the species from extinction. Greenpeace, however, was opposed to lifting the ban, and the debate ended in a stalemate.

“This strengthens our opposition to whaling,” Frode Pleym of Greenpeace said to Reuters about the recent IUCN report. “While some species have started to recover, none of them are back to the levels they had before industrial whaling started.”

Related Topics: Do Conservation Efforts Work?

Other endangered animals have not fared as well as the whale. Modern conservation efforts in general have yielded mixed results.

Basic conservation strategies fail when they are misused, applied too generally or local customs, economics and politics are ignored, Indiana University political scientist Elinor Ostrom told ScienceDaily.

While successes have included a revival of the American bald eagle, the saving of lobster fisheries and the resurgence of sea lions, some conservation strategies have led to catastrophic failures.

The Washington Post reported in June that expensive government efforts to save the Chesapeake Bay’s oysters have failed, with potentially dire consequences for the Bay, oystermen and oyster-related business.

Conservation groups say that more than one-quarter of the world’s wildlife has been lost since 1970, a rate “unprecedented since the extinction of the dinosaurs.” The populations of species have fallen by 25 percent on land, 28 percent in the oceans and 29 percent in freshwater ecosystems, according to The Living Planet Index.

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