Researchers Discuss Right Whale Plight
This week, virtual gatherings were conducted and attended by researchers from all over the U.S. and Canada - with the focus being on the preservation the endangered right whale. The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium invites input from a wide range of experts – including academic researchers, conservationists, government agencies, and those working in the shipping and fishing industry.
The reason behind the need for mass-involvement, explains Tonya Wimmer, who is the executive director of the Nova Scotia-based Marine Animal Response Society, is that saving the endangered right whale isn’t going to be achieved by a single industry or person or watchdog body only. Instead, bringing the species back from the edge of extinction will require a group effort by several persons and organisations, all working together towards a common goal.
Numbers Are Dwindling Quickly
In the U.S. this year so far, one six-month-old right whale calf has been found dead – with the animal’s death thought to have been the result of a vessel strike due to the nature of its wounds. The calf was discovered off the coast of New Jersey in June. No deaths have been reported in the waters around Canada this year so far.
There are currently only about 400 North Atlantic right whales left – or at least there were during the previous count - with fewer than 100 of those estimated to be breeding females capable of producing off-spring. The consortium is currently waiting on a confirmation of more recent numbers. Wimmer, however, says she’s not feeling overly optimistic about the anticipated numbers – especially not when considering the fact that since 2017, at least 29 deaths have been reported in Canadian waters alone. In fact, given current indications, the expectation is that previous numbers may have plummeted to new all-time lows.
Fishing And Ships The Culprits
As for the leading cause or causes of the deaths reported, vessel strikes and entanglement in commercial fishing gear are considered to be the main culprits, said Wimmer.
Federal government’s response has been that of temporarily closing down fishing zones whenever right whales have been spotted. Certain restrictions have also been imposed on the speed vessels are permitted to travel at.
Researchers are according to Wimmer also currently keeping tables on several entanglements in fishing gear reported in recent times. One such entanglement, reported as recently as earlier this month, involves two whales spotted caught up in fishing gear off the United States East Coast.