Whale Conservation Success Highlighted in IUCN Red List Update

Published Nov 14, 2018 8:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

An update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on Wednesday has demonstrated that species like the Fin Whale have benefited from collaborative conservation action to protect them. 

The Fin Whale has moved from Endangered to Vulnerable, and its recovery follows international bans on commercial whaling in the North Pacific and in the Southern Hemisphere, in place since 1976, and on significant reductions in catches in the North Atlantic since 1990. The nearly complete protection of Fin Whales throughout their range has allowed the global population to reach around 100,000 mature individuals. 

Western Gray Whale

The status of the western sub-population of the Gray Whale has also improved, moving from Critically Endangered to Endangered. Western Gray Whales have been protected from commercial whaling in almost all range state since 1980, but only recently has there been clear evidence of increasing numbers in the western Pacific, particularly off Sakhalin Island, Russia. The delay between conservation measures taking effect and the detection of whale recovery is due, in part, to these animals’ slow rate of reproduction. 

Five Gray Whale range states – Japan, Russia, South Korea, the U.S. and Mexico – have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation Concerning Conservation Measures for the Western Gray Whale Population. Industrial activity including oil and gas development and commercial fisheries also represent a potential threat to Gray Whales. Since 2004, an IUCN-led independent panel of scientists has been advising Sakhalin Energy, one of the largest companies operating offshore in the Russian Far East, on how to manage the potential impacts of its activities on the whales.

These conservation successes are proof that the ambitious, collaborative efforts of governments, business and civil society could turn back the tide of species loss, said Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General.

The IUCN Red List now includes 96,951 species of which 26,840 are threatened with extinction.