Humans Killed Nearly 3 Million Whales In The 20th Century

whale hunting

It’s long been known that whales were seriously endangered during the 20th century, but new research shows just how close we came to wiping them out completely.

A study published in the March 4 issue of “Marine Fisheries Review” shows that, between 1900 and 1999, a staggering 2.9 million whales were killed commercially for food, oil or bone.

“Remarkably, despite the importance of industrial whaling to several economies and more recently as a symbol of human misuse of the world’s resources, there has until now been no attempt to estimate the total catch for the 20th century,” the study, entitled “Emptying the Oceans: A Summary of Industrial Whaling Catches in the 20th Century,” says.

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A whale hunter in Hvalfjordur, Iceland, sharpens his blade to continue skinning fin whale.

Using current data from the International Whaling Commission, along with data from the USSR (which hunted whales illegally for 30 years) the researchers found that 276,442 whales were killed in the North Atlantic, 563,696 in the North Pacific and 2,053,956 in the Southern Hemisphere.

Researchers only counted whales killed industrially and found the numbers peaked in the 1960s and 1970s. (The number of whales killed for sustenance by native communities was a negligible amount in comparison.) Amazingly, the number of sperm whales killed between 1900 and 1962 was the same number of sperm whales killed in all of the 18th and 19th centuries combined. That record was then repeated in the decade spanning 1962 and 1972.

Howard Rosenbaum, the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Ocean Giants Program, told NBC News that the question facing researchers now is, “given the state of today’s oceans and the status of some whales, can depleted populations recover to their pre-whaling historical levels?”

According to the study, Southern Ocean —> Read More