A common question for people who are interested in whales is, how many humpback whales are there? There are an estimated 55 million humpback whales and more than three dozen different subspecies in the wild. Of all these, the Humpback whale (also called the Southern Right Whale) is the most numerous and, as such, is the most threatened. The exact number of whales is unknown. It’s possible that they number in the hundreds of thousands, although even that quantity would be an underestimate.
How many blue whales in the wild is also unknown. Blue whales are a vital component of the ecosystems of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and they play an important role in the food chain by being a highly productive predator that feeds on fish and shrimp. While it’s unclear how many blue whales there are in the wild, estimates place the number in the hundreds of thousands. The West Pacific is home to the largest concentration of blue whales – about 90% of the world’s blue whales are found in the area.
In addition to the West Pacific, how many of the Earth’s whales are there in the North Pacific? Estimates put that the numbers of Humpback, Blue, and Minke whales range between two to five million. The population status of these three populations is unknown.
How many of the endangered or protected populations exist? The answer depends on how you define an endangered or protected population. For the residents of the Pacific Ocean, there are currently no conservation programs in place to support recovery efforts. Only the residents of the Western Interior Seaway are currently assessed as having low to moderate numbers of Humpback, Blue, and Minke. Efforts to save this species in the past have resulted in the sealing of most remaining sea openings and a severely restricted breeding population.
How do researchers look at the data they collect to determine how many humpback whales exist in the present day? While most information comes from studying dead whales that washed up on beaches across the region, the lack of nesting habitat means that the number of adults and babies is unknown. Determining the abundance is also difficult since humpback whales breed only during certain seasons – generally during summer – making birth date and abundance estimation difficult to determine. The lack of available records also means that scientists cannot calculate an accurate number of how many whales exist in the future. With the help of computer models used to simulate whale behavior, however, experts can better track trends in the future.
Fortunately, the threat of human habitat loss is one of the main drivers of the whale decline. Even so, the numbers and locations of the species have shifted with the changes in water temperatures and land use in the area. Areas now used for agriculture and other activities pose new risks to these cetaceans. These threats, coupled with shrinking ocean habitat, mean that researchers have yet to come up with an exact number, but believe that gray whales are facing a rapid population decline – even their numbers may be decreasing.