Superhero of the Ocean: The Humpback Whale is back, fighting climate change

But the animals are more than just beautiful to look at, he emphasizes. “They are a secret weapon in our fight against climate change.” Whales can capture 1.7 billion tons of CO2 every year if their numbers return to their original levels, it appears a study by the IMF. “That’s just as much as all of Brazil’s carbon emissions.”

To arrive at those numbers, the population must first grow. The humpback whale is doing well, but not all species are on the mend. Nearly five million whales once swam in the ocean. That was before they were hunted. Now the counter is approximately 1.3 million. “Soviet whalers in particular have wreaked havoc here. They killed about 32,000 humpback whales in four years.”

The Australian government restricted whaling in the 1960s. In addition, international agreements were made. And that has helped. “But we are not there yet. Partly because, for example, countries such as Iceland, Norway and Japan still allow commercial whaling. More than 10,000 whales and dolphins die every year at the hands of humans.”

The whales’ habitat is just as important, Harcourt explains. “Overfishing and animal-ship collisions are a major problem. They keep whales from growing to their native numbers. Governments around the world should therefore better protect them.”

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