The extent of humanity’s destruction of whales has been laid bare in a new report that states that almost 3 million whales were killed in the 20th century alone. This is worse than was previously thought.
The scientists behind the findings used updated International Whaling Commission numbers to correct previous totals and came up with much higher totals for the whales caught between 1900 and 1999.
Previously it was thought that around 2 million whales had been slaughtered.
“By the time the IWC voted in 1982 to implement a moratorium on whaling beginning in 1985, at least 2,870,291 whales (99.1% of the overall 20th-century total of 2,894,094) had been killed by industrial whaling methods,” the team concluded. “As a result, many populations had been reduced to small fractions of their pristine abundance.”
Underreporting of the figures hid the true scale of the decimation done to the world’s whale population.
“The reason that [under-reporting] happened is because we knew that there were major falsifications of data, particularly from the Soviet Union … and the reason that it’s significant [is that] the total is significant,” researcher Phillip Clapham told Mic. “It documents the scale, in terms of biomass, [of] what is the largest slaughter in human history.”
The destruction of the world’s whale population also did damage to the ocean’s ecosystem? As Mic points out, whales are important for nutrient cycling and their carcasses provide nutrients for deep-sea organisms, as well as maintaining fisheries.
However, there is hope. The whaling industry is pretty much over – mostly though because of its own excesses.
As the researchers wrote in the report on the new figures,
“whaling management in the 20th century was an interminable debate about the status of stocks until all doubt was removed. And so too were the whales.”
And whale populations are recovering. The international ban on whaling in 1982 has meant that all nations except for Norway, Iceland and Japan have ceased commercial whaling operations.
The new figures too, are a galling reminder of what can happen.