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Humpback and Fin Whaling in the Gulf of Maine from 1800 to 1918

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Reeves, Randall; Smith, Tim D.; Webb, Robert L.; Robbins, Jooke; Clapham, Phillip J.
Journal: Marine Fisheries Review
Volume: 64
Date: 2002
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/6883
Sector: History
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: North America
Subject(s): whaling
Abstract: "The history of whaling in the Gulf of Maine was reviewed primarily to estimate removals of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, especially during the 19th century. In the decades from 1800 to 1860, whaling effort consisted of a few localized, small-scale, shore-based enter­prises on the coast of Maine and Cape Cod, Mass. Provincetown and Nantucket schooners occasionally conducted short cruises for humpback whales in New England waters. With the development of bomb-lance technology at mid century, the ease of killing humpback whales and fin whales, Balaenoptera physalus, increased. As a result, by the 1870’s there was con­siderable local interest in hunting rorquals (baleen whales in the family Balaenop­ teridae, which include the humpback and fin whales) in the Gulf of Maine. A few schooners were specially outfitted to take rorquals in the late 1870’s and 1880’s although their combined annual take was probably no more than a few tens of whales. Also in about 1880, fishing steamers began to be used to hunt whales in the Gulf of Maine. This steamer fishery grew to include about five vessels regularly engaged in whaling by the mid 1880’s but dwindled to only one vessel by the end of the decade. Fin whales constituted at least half of the catch, which exceeded 100 animals in some years. In the late 1880’s and thereafter, few whales were taken by whaling vessels in the Gulf of Maine."

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