Critically endangered Blue Whale is the largest animal to have ever lived, almost as big as Boeing 737 and even larger than the biggest dinosaurs.
Blue Whale skeleton, outside the Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz
The main threat in the past was direct exploitation, which only became possible in the modern era using deck-mounted harpoon cannons. Blue whale hunting started in the North Atlantic in 1868 and spread to other regions around 1900 after the northeastern Atlantic populations had been severely reduced. The Antarctic and North Atlantic populations were probably depleted to the low hundreds by the time whaling ceased, but are increasing . Blue whales have been protected worldwide since 1966, although they continued to be caught illegally by former USSR fleets until 1972. The last recorded deliberate catches were off Spain in 1978.
References: Dept. Of Environmental Conservation, New York State, Wikipedia, IUCN Red List.
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