Right whale extinction could really happen, say marine biologists
The north atlantic right whale maybe on the verge of extinction according to marine biologists who state that it has been a very bad year for them when it comes to mortality.
The right whale is one of the more rare types of whale, but is certainly not the smallest. Growing to an impressive length of 13 meters, these massive mammals can tip the scales at up to 40,000 kilos, or 88,000 pounds.
According to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 17 whales being tracked have already died this year, and their best estimate is that only 450 of these rare mammals remain.
They state that all the deaths this year were documented off the coast of New England, where the whales migrate too after giving birth in warmer southern waters.
This year was the worst in history for the right whale mortality rate, and making the situation even more grim is the fact that this was also one of the worst years for new births.
Right whales could be near extinction
“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “That’s something we can’t let happen.”
Officials state that there are less than 100 breeding females left, and that if action is not taken in the very near future to protect the right whale, it maybe extinct sooner rather than later.
So what exactly is causing these animals to die?
According to Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant, speaking at the New England Fishery Management Council Meeting in Newport, Rhode Island, humans are the cause of death of right whales.
Being hit by ships at sea, and getting caught up in fishing nets are the two leading causes of death for the whales.
“The current status of the right whales is a critical situation, and using our available resources to recover right whales is of high importance and high urgency,” Brown said.
Steps have been taken over the years to reduce the likelyhood of humans interfeering with, and harming animals at sea, but now more drastic measures need to be discussed.
Back in 2009, 27,000 miles of floating lines were removed to help reduce the likelyhood of whales getting caught in them, and in 2014, an additional 3,000 miles of lines were ordered removed.
Murray-Brown feels that more could be done to help reduce human interference even more.
He suggests that marine biologists and commercial fishing companies can work together to make continued improvement when it comes to fishing gear, changing ship routes, better whale tracking and monitoring line placement, all of which would greatly reduce the likelyhood of a whale senselessly dying.
“We recognize and appreciate that the fishing industry has made many sacrifices to drastically reduce the number of lines in the water column, reducing the risk of serious injuries and mortalities to whales,” notes Murray-Brown in his presentation. But given the low birth rate of this whale species, “the current status of right whales is a critical situation,” he writes.
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca