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Sei Whales Resurface in Argentine Waters After Century Absence

Photo : Reuters

After an absence of over a century, the majestic sei whales have made a remarkable return to the waters off Argentina's Patagonian coast. These giant blue-grey creatures, once teetering on the brink of extinction, were victims of relentless hunting during the 1920s and 1930s. Whaling ships, operating along and beyond Argentina's shores, decimated the sei whale population, ultimately leading to their disappearance from the region. However, thanks to global bans on commercial whaling enforced in recent decades, the sei whales are beginning to reclaim their erstwhile habitats.

Mariano Coscarella, a biologist and marine ecosystem researcher at Argentina's CONICET scientific agency, emphasized the historical significance of this resurgence. He explained to Reuters that the sei whales vanished from the region primarily due to hunting pressure. "They did not become extinct but were so reduced that no one saw them," he remarked. 

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"After nearly a century of being hunted to near extinction, sei whale populations are now bouncing back and returning to their former habitats," Coscarella added. However, he noted the protracted nature of this recovery, highlighting that it took over 80 years for sightings to occur again. Sei whales, characterized by their sleek, streamlined bodies and bluish-grey hue, belong to the baleen whale family. They are identifiable by their tall, curved dorsal fin and relatively small, pointed flippers.

These marine giants can reach lengths of up to 62-66 feet and weigh between 28-45 metric tons. Feeding primarily on small fish and plankton by filtering water through their baleen plates, sei whales play a vital role in oceanic ecosystems. 

Recently, Argentina's CONICET team embarked on a project to monitor sei whale migration patterns by fitting some individuals with satellite trackers. This initiative, funded by National Geographic's Pristine Seas project, aimed to gather valuable data on the whales' movements and behaviors. Utilizing drones and underwater recordings, researchers captured stunning footage of the whales in action.

Mr. Coscarella hailed this resurgence as "a success of conservation on a global scale," attributing the sei whales' recovery to the implementation of a worldwide ban on whaling. This remarkable comeback serves as a beacon of hope for the conservation of marine species worldwide.

May 14, 2024 3:03 p.m. 8810

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