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We give a detailed history of the exploitation of marine mammals in Barbados, which focused almost exclusively on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). We have reconstructed this history to better understand the impacts of human activities on the marine environment. Based on historical data, we demonstrate that whaling was a marginal activity financed by local elites who found it easy to transfer labor and tools from agricultural activities to shore-whaling. In spite of its marginal status, this activity not only depleted the local population of whales in a relatively short period of time, it also contributed to the species’ global decline. Today, humpbacks can be considered locally absent. Barbados, like other former British colonies, exploited marine mammals through shore-whaling, unlike many Latin American nations, which pursued dolphin fisheries. Barbadian shore-whaling, like many other marine mammal exploitation practices elsewhere in the Caribbean, was heavily influenced by industrialized nations. This history provides important clues for whale management and recovery.