Saturday, November 28, 2020

Your Good News of the Day: Back from the brink of extinction, blue whales return to South Georgia

After being nearly completely wiped out by whalers, new research suggests Antarctic blue whales have returned to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.

 Between 1998 and 2018, whaling surveys turned up only a single sighting.

That one loner must have told his buddies, because in February, scientists documented 58 blue whale sightings and recorded dozens of blue whale calls.

"The continued absence of blue whales at South Georgia has been seen as an iconic example of a population that was locally exploited beyond the point where it could recover," lead study author Susannah Calderan said in a news release.

Over the past few years we've been working at South Georgia, we have become quite optimistic about the numbers of blue whales seen and heard around the island, which hadn't been happening until very recently," said Calderan, a researcher at the Scottish Association for Marine Science.

In addition to relying on their own visual and sonic observations, scientists surveyed blue whale sightings by sailors and tourist ship passengers reported to the South Georgia Museum.

Over the last few years, the museum has also fielded photographs of blue whales snapped by seafarers.

So far, 41 blue whales in South Georgia have been photo-identified between 2011 and 2020. None of the South Georgia whales matched the profiles of the 517 whales in the Antarctic blue whale photographic catalogue.