In order to know that, we need to know how many whales were in the oceans 200 years ago, BEFORE the industrial whaling era. One way to do this is to measure whale songs, but how can we listen to sounds that no longer exist?
Two researchers have managed to do that by using whaling records to estimate how loud whale sounds were 50 years ago, compared to today, by analyzing whaling records, assigning sound levels to the number of whales killed, and comparing those sound records to the CURRENT ocean racket. They have come to the conclusion that the ocean is much louder today, now that most whaling has become illegal.
According to researchers Michael Stocker and Tom Reuterdahl, use of whaling records to determine just how many whales were harvested from the ocean over the course of industrialized whaling is difficult because the ship captains were taxed on their catch and therefore had an incentive to "fudge" the numbers. Some captains even kept two sets of books.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, some of the real reports began surfacing. In one example the Soviets initially reported taking approximately 2,710 humpback whales from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. The newer data reveal the actual number was closer to 48,000!
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