For the past decade the news about the endangered North Atlantic right whales has been plain bad, but now there’s a little good news.
There’s a North Atlantic right whale baby boom. It’s a tiny baby boom—just seven babies have been spotted off the East Coast this year, three off New England—but that’s big news for a species that’s down to about 411 individuals world-wide. Last year there were no sightings of new calves.
Whalers named them right whales because they were slow and docile, swam close to the coast, and their high oil and blubber content made them float after being killed.
Today, right whales don’t have to worry about whalers, but almost half of all right whale deaths are due to ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement. More than 85 percent of right whales have been entangled at least once, so mankind is still its biggest threat.
The mini-baby boom is good news, but right whales are still in trouble. Entanglements are very stressful for them and so is noise. Both are blamed for low reproduction numbers. Right whales are now only giving birth every 10 years, whereas previously it was every four years. The Natural Resource Defense Counsel also warns that this “good news” is already being used by the oil and gas industry to erode right whale protections.
So, the right whale is not safe by any means, but the baby boom is a small glimmer of hope.
If you’re wondering how they spot baby calves, it’s done from a small plane and you can read about it here.