Atlantic Humpback Dolphins are Going Extinct


Katie Cole

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)  upgraded the atlantic humpback dolphin onto the list of ‘critically endangered’ species. The population of the atlantic humpback dolphin has been decreasing throughout the 7,000 kilometer range where they are traditionally found. A recent estimation states less than 1,500 breeding adults remain.

Known for its distinctive hump just below the dorsal fin, the african humpback is a shy creature and remains within a few kilometers from the shore at all times. This closeness to the coast means that this understudied creature is highly susceptible to danger from human interaction. Bycatch and entanglement in fishing equipment is the leading cause of death for these timid creatures and is unluckily present in every part of their range. Other major causes for decline include being struck by boats, offshore construction, and hunting of these vulnerable creatures. The assessment statement made by the IUCN notes, “declines have been observed or are suspected for every known population, and continued declines are considered inevitable given the ongoing expansion of all identified threats throughout the species’ known range.”

They join a host of other creatures on the IUCN’s “red list” including their distant relative the Gulf of California porpoise known as the ‘vaquita’ (spanish for ‘little cow’). Researches are worried that these endangered porpoises could face the extinction this year. However, member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group Howard Rosenbaum gave cause for hope.

“The new Critically Endangered listing will hopefully provide greater attention and resources to mitigate primary and cumulative threats faced by the Atlantic humpback dolphin, as well as proactive strategies for protecting the species and its vital habitats in key parts of the range.” This idea is not necessarily false hope. 2017 saw good news for conservationists, multiple species including the wildly popular snow leopard which climbed off the critically endangered species list.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the widely unknown, bashful, quasimodo of the sea. With conservation efforts and human care, it is possible to bring back the atlantic humpback dolphin, its cousin the vaquita, and many other endangered creatures alike.