Whales inhabit every ocean on earth. The only known enemy of any whale species, other than killer whales, is mankind. Whaling as a commercial industry began several hundred years ago, but it has only been in more modern times that hunting has caused a major impact on the population of many whale species. This is due to bigger and faster ships and enhanced hunting methods. Although commercial whale hunting is now banned worldwide, the extent to which some species were hunted caused devastating impacts to their populations, some nearly to the point of extinction.
The largest mammal on earth, the blue whale, was placed on the protected species list in 1966 by the International Whaling Commission. When it was determined their numbers were not recovering, the World Conservation Union placed them on the endangered species list in 1986. It is estimated that there are only 10,000-25,000 remaining.
Yet another whale species that is well-known for its beautiful and haunting sounds is the humpback whale. This whale is migratory and can be found from the north Pacific to more temperate climes off the coast of southern California and Mexico. Before the hunting ban was in place, there were only about 1,500 of these whales. Numbers have slowly increased and it is now estimated that they have recovered to approximately 15,000.
North Atlantic Right Whale
While there are a number of different right whales, the most endangered of the whale species is the North Atlantic right whale. There may be as few as 500 of them left in the wild. Their numbers were decimated as they were considered easy to hunt and kill and could produce enormous amounts of oil that were highly useful at the time. These whales are slow to mature and only give birth every 3-5 years, so recovery of their population is extremely slow in comparison to other whale species.