Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Humpback whales are thriving, but an activist fundraising campaign says they’re on the brink of extinction.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation has launched a new fundraising appeal. One side of the envelope features an adult humpback whale accompanied by a juvenile. They appear to be fleeing a large ship. “Time is running out…” we’re told.
The other side of the envelope contains the identical image, minus the ship, flipped with photographic software so the whales appear to be swimming serenely in the opposite direction. That text says: “…their future is in your hands.”
Similar imagery on the group’s website talks about a “collision course with extinction.”
But humpback whales are in no danger of extinction. The International Whaling Commission tells us they “occur worldwide in all major oceans.” They are native to more than 130 countries – from the Bahamas to Bangladesh, from Nigeria to New Zealand, from Peru to Portugal.
The Commission says the humpback population has increased steadily since the 1985 moratorium on commercial whaling. Indeed, humpbacks appear to be expanding their range into new parts of the world.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) agrees these whales are not at risk. It rates species according to seven stages:
6. Extinct in the Wild
5. Critically Endangered
2. Near Threatened
1. Least Concern
Least concern – which should really be no concern – is as good as it gets. That has been the humpback whale’s rating for the past 12 years.
Even when 99% of a species is doing well, there may be somewhere in which that isn’t the case. According to the IUCN, the “very small” Arabian Sea subpopulation of humpbacks appears to be declining and is therefore “listed separately as Endangered.” If all the humpbacks in that corner of the world vanished tomorrow, there’d still be plenty left.
In the words of the IUCN, the “current global population is estimated at 135,000…which is higher than the level of three generations ago.” The truth is that humpbacks are an amazing conservation success story.
Which means the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s envelope is absolute fiction. Time is not running out for humpbacks. Their future will not be determined by people who donate money to that organization.