The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says large whales are less threatened, according to its assessment of marine mammals for the IUCN's "Red List" of endangered species.
The large whales, the commercially important ones, have for the most part responded well under protection, notes Reuters.
The world imposed a moratorium on hunts of whales in 1986 after many were driven towards extinction. Minke whales are still harpooned by Japan, Norway and Iceland. The humpback whale, which grows up to 50 feet and is found in all the world's oceans, was moved to "least concern" from "vulnerable" in the new Red List.
What can be done? One powerful idea is whale watching. In the late 1980s, whale watching became popular outside the Ogasawara islands south east of Tokyo where they claim to have a 90% success rates for watching humpback whales by boats during the past few years. Scheduled whale watching trips, 2 to 6 hours each, are offered daily, and charters any time. The types of boats are various; diving boats, pleasure boarts and commercial/sports fishing boats.
(Image from Moricha's Ogasawara Whale Watching blog)
Ogasawara Whale Watching Association (OWA) was established in March 1989 to help manage and regulate whale watching, and to operate as an information center. OWA's members are people who have interest in whale watching, boat operators, owners of tourism businesses, or simply fans of whales. And about 300 whale fans out of islands are also the general members who receive a newsletter.
Around Okinawa in southern Japan, the main season for whale watching is January-March (but of course, this country is infinitely more infamous for its government-supported "scientific" hunting that takes place in other parts of the world, mostly in the Antarctic Ocean).
"Humpbacks and southern right whales are making a comeback in much of their range mainly because they have been protected from commercial hunting," says Randall Reeves, Chair of the Cetacean Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, who led the IUCN Red List assessment. "This is a great conservation success and clearly shows what needs to be done to ensure these ocean giants survive."
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp
Treehugger: Whale-Watching Report: Whales More Valuable Alive Than Dead
WDCS: The State of Whale Watching in Latin America Report (PDF)