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File:Blue Whale population, Pengo.svg



World population graph of Blue Whales ( Balaenoptera musculus).


  • Left axis shows world population estimate (the average is used when a range is given)
  • Right axis shows the same values expressed as percentage of pre-whaling population

Data used

Based on data taken from - Blue Whale and other sources.

(See below for expanded references)

Year Global population Reference Used
Before whaling About 275,000 (Kemf & Phillips 1994) yes
1935 100,000 (Animal World 1972) no
1930s 30,000 - 40,000 (IUCN 1966) yes
1962 930 - 2790 (IUCN 1966) yes
1964 650 - 2000 (Oryx 1964a) yes
1970 600 (Animal World 1972) no
Late 1970s 4000 - 4500 (Burton & Pearson 1987) yes
1980 About 6500 (Nowak & Paradiso 1983) yes
1990 2500 - 3000 (Klinowska 1991) yes
1994 Probably under 5000 (Kemf & Phillips 1994) yes
2002 5000 - 02 (Pop 2002) no

Some data points were not used because I found them only after making the graph. Also (Animal World 1972) is a poor source, as it's an encyclopedia without citations.


  • Kemf & Phillips. 1994. Whales in the Wild. World Wildlife Fund, Gland, Switzerland.
  • IUCN 1966 Red Data Book. Vol. 1 - Mammalia. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Morges, Switzerland.
  • Oryx 1964a. Whaling agreement hitch. Oryx 7:145.
  • Burton & Pearson. 1987. Rare Mammals of the World. Stephen Greene Press, Lexington, MA, USA.
  • Nowak & Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World, vols. 1 and 2. 4th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA.
  • Klinowska, M. 1991. Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales of the World - The IUCN Red Data Book. IUCN. Gland, Switzerland.
  • Pop 2002 = Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (2002) Assessment and Update Status Report on the Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus Population size and trends, p5. (not used in this version of the graph)
  • Animal World 1972 = Encyclopedia of the Animal World, 1972. p699 (not used in graph)


  • Commercial exploitation of whales began in the 19th century.
  • Average of estimates used rather than error bars.
  • IUCN estimates may be only of mature individuals (need to check that).
  • Prewhaling population may be a huge under-estimate. A recent study (2003) gives population estimates for fin and humpback whales far greater than those previously calculated for prewhaling populations. Similar studies have not yet been done for Blue Whales. (Roman, J and S.R. Palumbi. 2003. Whales Before Whaling in the North Atlantic. Science. 301: 508-510. PDF)


Made in OpenOffice Calc (v2.1), exported to SVG by first copying into Draw, and then practically recreated in Inkscape (v0.45). I don't recommend this way of making a graph.


Image credit: Peter Halasz. ( User:Pengo)

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