Southern right whales grow in number along Brazil’s coastline

Whale hunting has been banned in the country since 1987

Published on 05/08/2023 - 09:11 By Cristina Indio do Brasil - Rio de Janeiro

During the southern right whale season in Brazil, experts are seizing the opportunity to warn that these majestic creatures are still listed as an endangered species in the country. While there has been a recent increase in the number of whales visiting the Brazilian coast, their existence is still at risk.

These whales are mostly spotted off the coast of Santa Catarina state, where the Southern Right Whale Environmental Protection Area is located, under the care of the conservation institute ICMBio.

According to 2020 data from the Australis Institute, the species saw a yearly growth rate of 4.8 percent, reported after 15 years of aerial surveys. In 2018, the highest number of sightings (273) was recorded between 2017 and 2022.

Despite the recovery in the population over the years, the situation is still delicate. Experts note that the whales’ reproduction has slowed down. “Predicting exactly low long their recovery must take for them to be crossed from the endangered list is challenging as it depends not only on the hunting ban but also on environmental factors crucial for reproduction,” Cristiane Kiyomi Miyaji Kolesnikovas, president of the R3 Animal Association, told Agência Brasil.

Since 1987, the hunting of whales, dolphins, and porpoises has been prohibited by law in Brazil. However, Kolesnikovas pointed out that sea pollution impacts the animals’ reproduction.

Gigantic creatures of Santa Catarina

The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) is usually referred to in Brazil as baleia-franca. Due to their presence off the coast of the southern state, these mammals have also earned the nickname “giants of Santa Catarina.” They can reach lengths of up to 17 meters and weigh as much as 90 tons.

The reason they come to the calmer and warmer waters of Brazil is for the birth of their calves, which measure between four and five meters and weigh about two tons.

“They feed in the Antarctic regions and start showing up in our coastal waters in June. They stay until around October, with the peak of the season observed in September. They come here to breed, give birth to their calves, and mate,” the specialist said.

The calves born in Brazil do not return to reproduce until ten years later, when they reach sexual maturity. A long-lived species, the southern right whale can live up to 80 years.

On July 31, Brazil celebrates the Day of the Southern Right Whale, created after one of these whales was successfully returned to the sea 17 years after being stranded on the Brazilian coast.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Caroline Pimentel

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