target: International Union for Conservation of Nature
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The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a marine mammal belonging to the baleen whales (Mysticeti). At 30 metres (98 ft) in length and 170 tonnes (190 short tons) or more in weight, it is the largest known animal ever to have existed.
Blue whales were abundant in nearly all the oceans on Earth until the beginning of the twentieth century. For over a century, they were hunted almost to extinction by whalers until protected by the international community in 1966. A 2002 report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales worldwide, located in at least five groups. More recent research into the Pygmy subspecies suggests this may be an underestimate. Before whaling, the largest population was in the Antarctic, numbering approximately 239,000 (range 202,000 to 311,000). There remain only much smaller (around 2,000) concentrations in each of the eastern North Pacific, Antarctic, and Indian Ocean groups. There are two more groups in the North Atlantic, and at least two in the Southern Hemisphere.
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