Quirks & Quarks

3 Million Whales Killed in the 20th Century

New data reveals the carnage of industrial whaling during the 20th century.
(NOAA)
Industrial whaling in the 20th century claimed nearly 3 million whales.

For the first time, an accurate count has been tallied, using The International Whaling Commission database, together with new numbers now released from Russia, which include former Soviet Union counts. Robert Rocha, from the New Bedford Whaling Museum, helped compile the staggering numbers.

Most of the world's large whale species, from all over the world, are included in that tally. The number of whales killed rose dramatically from several hundred thousand prior to the 20th century, due to the increase in whaling efficiency and the shift from sail to diesel-powered vessels. The study helps explain why many of the world's large whales remain on the endangered species list.

Related Links

Paper in Marine Fisheries Review (PDF)
Nature News story
NBC News story
Scientific American story
New Bedford Whaling Museum

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