Blue Whale (fwd)

From: Mike Williamson (
Date: Mon Apr 17 2000 - 17:01:04 EDT

Subject: Re: Blue Whale


You ask good questions, although there's no easy answer. Here's what I
can tell you (and what you'd find if you hunted around a lot):

1) There is no really good estimate for the number of blue whales
remaining today. This is because, like all whales, these animals live
lives far from humans in oceans where the conditions are often very
dangerous for us, and which make surveys very difficult. Plus, they
send most of their lives underwater, so simply finding them (despite
their size!) is a big problem.

But in general, this is the guess: the only population that seems to be
doing really well is that off California, which is estimated at around
2000 animals (and that number is probably pretty good). Elsewhere in
the North Pacific no one really knows how many there are - perhaps a few
hundred. We do know that one former population, off Japan, has been
completely wiped out by whaling - it's gone, and no one sees blues there
any more. Something similar seems to have happened off the Aleutian

In the southern hemisphere, where blue whales once numbered in the
hundreds of thousands (350,000 were killed there from 1904 to about
1965), blue whales are now very rare. It is likely that there are fewer
than a thousand left in the entire Southern Ocean, but there are no good

In the North Atlantic, the number is anywhere from a few hundred to more
than a thousand, depending on which numbers you believe.

Overall, blue whales are a very good example of a species that was
severely impacted by excessive whaling. I will send you separately the
text of a paper which I published last year on this issue.

2) There is no real magic number below which an animal is considered
endangered. Actually, there are some systems and conventions in the
world which do try to set numbers for "threatened", "endangered",
"creitically endangered" etc., but when whales were added to the
endangered species list in the early 70's these criteria weren't in use.

Hope this helps!

Phil Clapham wrote:
> I am 8 years old and am having a hard time finding an answer to two
> questions. First about how many blue whales are alive today and how low
> does the number of an animal have to be to be put on the endangered list?
> I have researched the library and several e-mail sites and I am doing a
> report on the blue whale which is due April 15th and I still can't find the
> answers to these questions. If you can help me I would appreciate it.
> Thank you.---
> ---
> --- EarthLink: It's your Internet.


Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D. Large Whale Biology Program Northeast Fisheries Science Center 166 Water Street Woods Hole, MA 02543

tel (508) 495-2316 fax (508) 495-2066 Internet:

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