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Whales may be resurfacing

Juan Pablo Torres, a marine biologist from Chile’s Blue Whale Center, studies the whales’ migratory patterns and tries to assess potential threats, such as pollution. Blue whales congregate in the Gulf of Corcovado during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer and fall. (Liliana Nieto del Rio for The Los Angeles Times)
A humpback whale shows its tail in the Strait of Magellan, where biologists have identified a group of about 100 to 150 seasonally resident animals. Conservationists say it’s too early to celebrate a comeback by whales; they could be remnants of older populations. (Liliana Nieto del Rio for The Los Angeles Times)
The bleached bones of butchered whales and other ocean mammals still litter the ground at Eagles Bay, an old Patagonian whaling station. An international hunting moratorium has been in effect for 22 years. Oil from whales hunted off Chile’s coast was once a globalized commodity, with parallels to today’s petroleum. (Liliana Nieto del Rio for The Los Angeles Times)
Fishing boats off Melinka in the Gulf of Corcovado, where blue whales congregate every summer. Salmon farms have proliferated along Chile’s coast, and whale researchers worry about contamination, disease and parasites from the tightly packed fish pens, and competition for food stocks. (Liliana Nieto del Rio for The Los Angeles Times)
Humpbacks in the Strait of Magellan feed on plentiful sardines, sometimes working in groups to herd the fish against forests of kelp. Biologist Juan Capella studies the animals. “We know very little about the whale,” he says. “Here we have a natural laboratory.” (Liliana Nieto del Rio for The Los Angeles Times)
In Melinka, the salmon-farming town on the Gulf of Corcovado, Mayor Luis Miranda says, “I believe in protecting the whales, but the fact is we can’t live on whales.” No consensus has emerged on a proposed measure to protect blue whale habitat in the nearby ocean. (Liliana Nieto del Rio for The Los Angeles Times)