The bowhead whale population rebounds as the Arctic water warms

A new update published by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration details how the bowhead whale population has rebounded in U.S. waters, reaching pre-commercial whaling numbers. The report was published in peer-reviewed journal, the Arctic Report Card.

J. Craig George, a retired biologist with the North Slope borough department of wildlife management, says, “This is really one of the great conservation successes of the last century.”

The bowhead whale is the only baleen that lives year-round in the Arctic, coming close to extinction even. This species of whale was first targeted in the 1700s by the commercial whaling industry for their blubber and oil. The whale was specifically targeted due to its slow moving nature, making the baleen an easy target. Commercial whaling of the bowhead whale continued into the 20th century.

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After commercial whaling slowed, the rebound of the whale’s population was mainly due to the difficult human access nature of the bowhead’s natural habitat. This has made the targeting hunting of the bowhead very difficult.

Craig George attributes a lot of this success to the sustainable management and stewardship of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC), an organization that has helped fight against offshore oil drilling and other human activities that harm the baleen’s population.

The researchers even worked with the native Alaskan communities (such as the  Inupiat of Utqia?vik, Alaska) that have sustainably hunted the species for 1,000 years.

“No one has fought harder than the AEWC to protect bowhead habitat from industrial development in the US Arctic,” George said. “The general understanding of cetacean biology, anatomy and physiology and ecology has been greatly enhanced in the partnership with indigenous hunters,” George said. “It was the Inupiat captains that taught us how to properly count whales.”

Though the species is rebounding, the fight to save the bowhead whales is far from over. As the water warms, the whale’s thick blubber leaves them at a disadvantage during the summer.

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Source: The Guardian

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