North Atlantic Right Whale | WCAI

North Atlantic Right Whale

Eve Zuckoff

In the last month, eight North Atlantic right whales have been found dead in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, including two members of the critically endangered species this past week.  

 

Canadian authorities say work to determine these new whales' cause of death is ongoing.

Whatever the cause of these latest deaths, researchers worry collisions with ships are increasingly to blame.

Center for Coastal Studies image taken under NOAA permit #14603-1.

Five North Atlantic right whales have been found dead in the past week – six this month. With just over four hundred individuals remaining, and calving rates low, that’s a death toll the critically endangered population can’t afford.

“Panicking seems appropriate, yes,” said Peter Corkeron, who leads the large whale research program at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

Living Lab Radio: June 30, 2019

Jun 30, 2019

“With 24 candidates, there are 620 billion trillion possible rankings. When there are many candidates, there are many more ways for people to disagree than to agree.”     -Alexander Strang

Climate Change Forcing North Atlantic Right Whales to Search for Food

Jun 3, 2019
North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered.
Courtesy of The Center for Coastal Studies

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered, with just over 400 individuals left, and their numbers declining. The leading causes of death are well-known: right whales are susceptible to being struck by ships, and over 83 percent have shown evidence of being entangled in fishing gear at one point or another.

But the population has also seen low reproductive rates and declining health status in recent years that can't necessarily be explained by those impacts. Now, new research points to another possible culprit: climate change.

Can We Save the Right Whales?

May 6, 2019
NOAA

It’s estimated there are just over 400 North Atlantic right whales remaining, and that number has been declining in recent years. The two main causes of death are both related to human activities – ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. In particular, the lines that connect lobster and crab traps to buoys at the water’s surface are major culprits in entanglements.

North Atlantic Right Whale Update

Jan 20, 2019
NOAA

The year 2017 was a devastating one for North Atlantic right whales. There are just over 400 of the critically endangered whales left, and there were 17 confirmed deaths. In every case in which the dead whale could be examined, the cause of death was found to be either entanglement in fishing gear or being hit by a ship.

The North Atlantic right whale population has a chance at recovery if entanglement & ship strikes can be avoided.
NOAA Photo Library / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

North Atlantic right whales have once again been spotted in New England’s waters, with several sighted south of Nantucket. These iconic large whales are known for gathering in Cape Cod Bay each spring, but their movements have been less predictable in recent years.  

Right Whale Body Washes Ashore on Monomoy Island

Sep 7, 2018
Sarah Tan / WCAI

After an endangered North Atlantic Right whale washed up dead on the shores off Chatham last week, researchers have been working to determine its cause of death. The whale is the second dead right whale recorded this year. 

Good News: Vastly Fewer Right Whale Deaths This Year

Aug 13, 2018
The North Atlantic right whale population has a chance at recovery if entanglement & ship strikes can be avoided.
NOAA Photo Library / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There’s a bit of good news when it comes to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Only one dead whale has been found in 2018, as opposed to the 17 that were found last year.

One possible source of improvement were the closures of the snow crab fishery in Canada and the reduction of ship speeds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the whales were seen in large numbers last year.

Sam Houghton

The endangered North Atlantic right whale is facing extinction, with fewer than 450 left. The most significant cause of mortality for the whales is entanglement in fishing gear, including lobster trap lines. A lawsuit forcing the government to protect the whales may bring about a change in the way lobster fishermen have worked for more than a hundred years.

From Gallows Humor to Cutting Edge Technology

May 2, 2018
This four-bladed arrow can be used to cut fishing gear off entangled whales.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

The disentanglement team at the Center for Coastal Studies might be forgiven for some off-color jokes. Dozens of whales get tangled in fishing gear each year. The results can be grizzly – wounds that cut to the bone, infections, starvation – if not deadly. And attempting to free entangled whales is both physically and emotionally exhausting, not to mention dangerous. What’s not to joke about?  

Bob Lynch stands on the bow of the Center for Coastal Studies' response boat, Ibis, preparing to shoot a four-bladed crossbow arrow to cut the ropes entangling a female North Atlantic right whale known as Kleenex.
NOAA/NEFSC/Leah Crowe / Image collected under MMPA research permit #17335

North Atlantic right whales are severely endangered, and entanglement in fishing gear is a leading cause of both deaths and low birth rates. A small Provincetown-based team tries to free as many whales as possible each year, but these efforts are dangerous and not a permanent solution.

Kathryn Eident

They’re hard to miss when you walk into the New Bedford Whaling Museum: four enormous whale skeletons suspended from the ceiling, nearly filling the 2-story space. There’s a humpback whale and a blue whale, but what catches most peoples’ eye is a pair of whales: a female North Atlantic Right Whale, and her calf—also a female.

NOAA

The North Atlantic right whale was once seen as an inexhaustible natural resource. It was hunted for its oil and enriched New England. That ended one-hundred years ago, but the right whale’s numbers have never been the same. Now, the whales that are left are in direct conflict with the harvesting of another rich natural resource: lobsters. 

Each spring North Atlantic right whales visit Cape Cod Bay. The mammals are well-documented by researchers, but their numbers are dwindling. It’s estimated there are fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales left. On April 18th, WCAI begins a special series of reports on the endangered North Atlantic right whale, called “In the Shadow of Extinction.”

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