From: Dalhousie University
Published September 5, 2017 09:01 AM

A race against time: Saving the North Atlantic right whale

In June 2017, three critically endangered North Atlantic right whale carcasses were spotted floating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In the weeks that followed the number of dead right whales rose to 10, while three more were found entangled alive in fishing gear. (The total number of deaths may be as high as 12.)

For a species with approximately 500 surviving animals in the world, this was a crisis — an unprecedented die-off signalling a troubled outlook for the species.

But over the last few years scientists have been concerned that the small population of surviving whales has been doing poorly on several fronts. Females have been bearing fewer calves and population growth has not just been at a standstill since 2012 — it’s likely in decline after this year’s losses. Lower numbers of whales have been spotted in some well-known feeding areas including Grand Manan Basin in the Bay of Fundy, an important nursery habitat for young.

Experts combing over photographic data say some whales’ bodies are in poor condition, suggesting the animals are using more energy to traverse longer distances in search of food. Scientists believe it’s this search that has likely brought large numbers of right whales into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

 

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Photo via Dalhousie University.

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