Friday, September 24, 2010
The Bowhead Whale, along with several other species of baleen whales, underwent extreme persecution during the 18th and 19th Century as whalers wiped out entire pods. The Bowhead Whale’s range within the Arctic made it a prime target for British, Dutch, American and Swedish whalers. The populations took such a crash during the mechanization of whaling during the late 19th Century that soon whalers were forced to seek out easier targets, such as the Right Whale, which was hunted to extinction by the 20th Century. The Bowhead population was so depleted that by the time commercial whaling was banned in the 1960s, an estimate one hundred specimens existed. Getting accurate data on the Bowhead was difficult due to their scarcity. The best know sample was that of a dead Bowhead that washed ashore in northern Norway. A harpoon head was extracted from the corpse that dated back to the 1840s, making the animal well over one hundred years old. As of today, the Bowhead holds the record as the longest lived mammal. A comprehensive study launched in 1983, by the University of Bergen spotted one Bowhead off the eastern coast of Greenland. When the team returned to following year in order to track down this or others to be tagged, they spotted none. The last known spotting of a Bowhead was that off a fishing troller in the Norwegian Sea in 1991. Since then, no Bowheads have been spotted and International Wildlife Fund listed them as presumably extinct in 2000.