Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Messing with Paradise: Right whales

Right whale
Photo by Andrea G.
Guest contributor


From the National Marine Fisheries:

Population Trends

It is believed the western North Atlantic population numbers only about 300 individual right whales. It is unclear whether its abundance is remaining stable, undergoing a slight growth, or currently in decline. However, a recent model predicts that under current conditions, the population will be extinct in less than 200 years.

Although precise estimates of abundance are not available, it appears that the eastern North Atlantic population is nearly extinct, probably only numbering in the low tens of animals. It is unclear whether animals found in the eastern North Atlantic represent a "relict" population or whether all or some animals are individuals from the known western North Atlantic population.


Ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear are the most common human causes of serious injury and mortality of western North Atlantic right whales. Additional threats may include habitat degradation, contaminants, climate and ecosystem change, and predators such as large sharks and killer whales. Disturbance from such activities as whale-watching and noise from industrial activities may affect the population. To reduce disturbance from boats, NMFS published regulations [pdf] in 1997 that prohibit vessels from approaching within 500 yards of right whales.

More information is available here.

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