Subject: Right whales recover strongly (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 14:32:22 -0400 (EDT)

J. Michael Williamson
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
   Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.734.8666, or 617.566.7369

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 97 11:53:00 GMT 
Subject: Right whales recover strongly

Right whales recover strongly off S.Africa

    CAPE TOWN, South Africa (Reuter) - Southern Right Whales,
hunted to the brink of extinction in the first half of the
century, produced a record crop of around 140 calves in the 1996
breeding season off South Africa, an expert said Thursday.
     Peter Best, senior whale researcher for the University of
Pretoria's mammal research institute, told Reuters he had
photographed 146 cow-and-calf pairs during his annual survey
last year.
     Through analysis of the photographs and the distinctive
barnacle-like markings, he expects to weed out a handful of
double-sightings, but the evidence remains clear that the whales
are breeding successfully.
     "There are more whales off the South African coast now than
there have been for at least the last 100 years. They are
breeding as fast as it is possible for them to do," he said.
     Working from the South African national museum in Cape Town,
Best combs the coast by air every year, photographing cow and
calf pairs as part of a survey to monitor the recovery of the
     He said last year's survey, the results of which are still
being analysed, pointed to a growth in the migrant South African
population from 2,000 to around 2,300 over the past three years.
     That could be between a half and a third of the surviving
world population of the Southern Right Whales, so named by 19th
Century hunters because they were the best or "right" whales
to kill.
     "They are still depleted. It seems we are now around 10
percent of the original numbers before whaling started in
earnest in the 18th Century. They've still got a long way to
go," Best said.
     The Southern Right Whales, which visit the South African
coast between June and December every year, were given
international protection in 1937, but the hunting ban was
routinely violated until the 1960s.
     Now, the whales are protected from hunters and from the
increasing numbers of whale tourists who arrive every year to
watch them frolic in Cape Town's False Bay and in Walker Bay,
their main calving grounds, to the east.
     Hundreds of tourists visit the town of Hermanus every year
to watch the whales playing in clear water at the base of its
low cliffs, but boat-based whale-watching is carefully regulated
to prevent any interference in the breeding pattern.
     Best said individual whales calved every three years.