Best (1987) estimated that American whalers in the 19th century killed over 14,600 southern right whales in the South Pacific, but he did not attempt to allocate the catch to any geographic regions. French whalers in the 19th century took about 2,372 right whales along the coast of Chile (Du Pasquier 1986). These estimates do not include any allowance for struck and lost animals. During the 20th century between 1929 and 1966, a total of 119 right whales were killed by shore-based whalers in Chilean waters (Aguayo 1974). In only two decades between 1951 and 1971, Soviet pelagic whaling operations killed at least 3,368 right whales in the Southern Hemisphere (Tormosov et al. 1998). These catches occurred in all the major habitats where right whales are known to be increasing today but none of these Soviet catches occurred in the waters off Chile and Peru.
The IWC conducted its last major review of southern right whales in 1998 (IWC 2001), but little information was available for the whales in the waters off Chile and Peru. Between 1964 and 1991, only 16 female-calf pairs were recorded from south-central to northern Chile and none from Peru (Van Waerebeek et al. 1998). The first female-calf pair in southern Peru was recorded in 1996 (Van Waerebeek et al. 1998). There were no known major catches by coastal whalers off Chile in the past and Peru during the 20th century and no catches in this region by Soviet pelagic operations between the 1950s and early 1970s. Thus, it is surprising that no increase has been observed in this subpopulation. Other subpopulations (Australia, Argentina and South Africa) have shown increases with doubling of times around 10-12 years. The maximum 1-day count of only four whales (Aguayo et al. 1992) is extremely low compared to maximum daily counts of 15, 40, 155 and 256 (2 days) off southeast Australia, southwest Australia, Argentina, and South Africa respectively (IWC 2001).