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iWild: For more see iWild.org

Fin Whale

Fin Whale From the smallest to the largest! Inspired by beautiful photos of Fin Whales posted on The Mudflats, a favorite Alaskan website, we’re following Rodent Week with an examination of the Fin Whale, which experienced a global decline of over 70% over the past three generations, reduced to 2-3% of its former numbers. Unlike the gray whale, which has experienced a partial recovery in most oceans, this whale has yet to regain ground after the century-long period of intensive commercial whaling and is listed as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List. There are still significant mysteries about the life cycle of this enormous animal, the second largest mammal on earth (after the blue whale). The species frequents the open ocean, so its migratory patterns and winter breeding sites are not fully understood. Experts differ over pre-whaling population estimates. As for the current worldwide population, the IUCN offers a rough estimate of 53,000 as of 2000. So the fact that Norway, Iceland, and Japan consider themselves outside the International Whaling Commission’s ban on whaling remains a grave concern for this species. In Japan and Korea, whale meat being sold in markets as “bycatch”—whales purportedly caught in fishing nets—has been identified as coming from fin whales, minke whales, Bryde’s whales, and humpback whales, as well as individuals from a critically endangered population of western gray whales: A recent article in Science Daily reports that “bycatch” in these countries has reached “an inordinate amount.” Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, concluded after a genetic study of commercially-available whale meat that the number of whales killed through bycatch may equal the number killed through Japan’s “scientific” whaling program, around 150. “The sale of bycatch alone supports a lucrative trade in whale meat at markets in some Korean coastal cities, where the wholesale price of an adult minke whale can reach as high as $100,000,” Baker said. “Given these financial incentives, you have to wonder how many of these whales are, in fact, killed intentionally.”
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