Humpback recovery highlights the success of whale conservation

AS we quickly approach the 2022 whale watching season and tour operators prepare to welcome thousands of visitors to Hervey Bay, one interesting fact likely to be discussed at length on the boats this year is the removal of the humpback whale from Australia’s threatened species list.

white and black whale in water
Photo by Elianne Dipp on

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the strength of the humpback whale population meant the Threatened Species Scientific Committee no longer viewed them as being threatened or vulnerable.  

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It’s important to note that international protections remain in place to prevent any form of whale hunting.

“This is not about removing safeguards for humpbacks, which are still a protected migratory species, but it is a recognition of the success of the outstanding conservation efforts that are in place,” Minister Ley said.

“Australia is a world leader in whale conservation, and we will continue to work through the International Whaling Commission to promote whale conservation and maintain the global moratorium on commercial whaling.

“Our removal of the Humpback from the threatened species list is based on science and sends a clear signal about what can be achieved through coordinated action. It is a message of hope for the welfare of a number of species.”

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At the height of the global whaling industry, there were as few as 1,500 humpback whales in Australian waters.

Minister Ley said that population is now believed to be as many as 40,000 – and growing.

Humpback whales have an important role to play in the Fraser Coast economy, with Hervey Bay considered the whale watching capital of the world and being named the first ever Whale Heritage Site in 2019.

Tourists and visitors who flock to the region every year to see the whales up close help sustain the local tourism industry – providing a much-needed cash injection into local businesses, cafes, restaurants and accommodation venues.

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Minister Ley said the decision to remove the humpback whale from the threatened species list follows a public consultation process and detailed assessment by the independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

Did you know?

•    Humpback whales are found in all ocean basins worldwide and across this range there are multiple distinct populations. 
•    Two populations of Humpback whales breed in Australian waters and migrate along the east and west coasts annually from May to November. 
•    Studies have shown Australia’s Humpback whale populations have been recovering at close to their maximum possible rate since the cessation of whaling.
•    The Australian Government is investigating a long-term monitoring program for the Humpback whale to ensure the population remains stable into the future.

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