Surviving in a changing ocean

THE humpback whale was hunted almost to the point of extinction last century, with around 200 of a population that was once around 10,000, remaining across the entire region when the hunting ended in 1978.

Hailed as one of the world’s most successful conservation stories, the population has recovered today to around 3,000 whales. These whales no longer face the harpoon, but are affected by new threats, especially plastic litter, marine noise, and climatic changes.

In April, 11 Pacific countries signed the Pacific Whale Declaration, calling for strengthened whale conservation across the region, at the Whales in a Changing Ocean conference hosted by the Kingdom of Tonga which is fitting given its historical role. When King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga banned all whaling in Tongan waters in 1978, he ushered in a new era of conservation for this iconic species.

The Declaration highlights the need for continuing efforts to conserve Pacific whales in the face of emerging and ongoing threats. “The growing population of the humpback whale is proof that by working together, the Pacific islands can achieve great results. But we cannot rest here: the threats whales face continue to grow,” said Mr Michael Donoghue of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). 

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