Current WCS efforts towards humpback whale conservation are focused on the Southern Hemisphere populations of the species. We are conducting field activities in Western Africa (Congo, Gabon - WCS's Congo Basin Coast Seascape, and Angola), Madagascar/the Western Indian Ocean, and the Northern Indian Ocean (Arabian Sea humpback whales linked to Southern Hemisphere populations), as well as participating in the international policy and management arena (e.g. International Whaling Commission - IWC).
Our overall goal is to promote the recovery of and strengthen future management of humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere and Northern Indian Ocean. Humpback whale populations in the Arabian, Indian and South Atlantic Oceans will return to pre-whaling population sizes under effective national and regional conservation management with issues such as offshore oil and gas exploration and production, coastal development, interactions with fisheries, climate change and other potential impacts addressed in key range states, and with bioligially important and essential habitats protected.
The potential impacts from expanding offshore oil and gas exploration and production and associated anthropogenic noise and chemical pollution are among the key issues to be addressed for Southern Hemisphere humpback whales. Coastal development in biologically important habitat is also increasing at a rapid pace. Unregulated industrial fishing, targeted takes, incidental bycatch, entanglement in fishing gear, and ship strikes also may impede the recovery of humpback whale populations. Climate change and the possibility of renewed commercial whaling are also concerns that can affect the progress of humpback whale recovery.
Our scientific findings and the effective communication of results guide the design of appropriate mitigation and monitoring measures. Some of the ways we do this include:
- Collecting and analyzing baseline data on humpback whale populations to understand their population structure, distribution, patterns of habitat-use, evaluate impacts and key threats, and to define biologically important habitats and migratory corridors
- Guide the implementation of effective protected areas, whale sanctuaries, and other policies at local, regional, and national levels to conserve humpback whales
- Working with government and industry to evaluate threats, mitigate impacts, and monitor population recovery given rapidly expanding hydrocarbon exploration and production
- Developing and promoting sustainable, responsible whale and dolphin ecotourism