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We Are Closer Than Ever Before to the Extinction of the North Atlantic Right Whale

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Breaching NA right whale
Breaching NA right whale

Act RIGHT now or lose this iconic species forever. Help us save them - please, donate today

Hunted since the 11th century, right whales were nearly extinct when they finally received protection from whaling in 1935. Even so, the population has struggled to recover as they face mounting modern-day threats from fishing gear entanglements, vessel strikes, habitat loss, and pollution.

Since its incorporation in 2005, WDC’s North American office has run a dedicated program to save this imperiled species and worked to implement protective measures to save right whales from those threats. For example, WDC has worked to develop and implement rules to reduce ship strikes, successfully reducing the risk of a fatal collision by 80-90% in US waters, and to increase federally designated critical habitat to cover nearly 40,000 square miles of the US East Coast. 

Sadly, the unprecedented loss of at least 19 endangered North Atlantic right whales since April of 2017 has caused considerable alarm as these deaths comprise over 4% of the entire species of which only an estimated 450 remain.  In human terms, a similar loss would mean the deaths of more than 304 million people in a matter of weeks – that would be approximately 94% of the entire US population.

The recovery of large whales is key to combatting climate change and saving our own future.  Emerging research demonstrates that whales act as ecosystem engineers and provide the much needed nutrients to phytoplankton, tiny ocean plants that create least 50% of our oxygen, annually sequester hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon, and provide a base for the marine food web leading to abundant fish stocks.  We need right whales to survive- our future depends on it.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

  • Fewer than 460 remain.
  • At least 4% (18 whales) of the population died between April 2017 and January 2018.
  • 12 of the 18 confirmed deaths were documented in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada while the remaining 6 were found in US waters.
  • The species is in decline with a 1% annual loss since 2010.
  • Reproduction rates are down with only 5 calves documented in 2017.
  • NO CALVES have been reported during the 2018 calving season.
  • The leading causes of death are entanglements in fishing gear and vessel strikes.
  •  In response to a changing climate, human use of their habitat, or perhaps both, right whales have changed their habitat patterns since 2010 which has increased their risk of entanglements and vessel strikes.
  • Female right whales aren't living as long as males, leaving fewer mature females to bear calves and add to the population number and long-term survival of the species.
  • Predicted extinction from current threats within 25 years at this rate.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  1. Help us save this species - DONATE TODAY
  2. PROTECTIONS FOR RIGHT WHALES AND ALL US MARINE MAMMALS AT RISK- US CITIZENS- EMAIL YOUR SENATOR AND TELL THEM YOU WANT MARINE MAMMAL PROTECTIONS TO STAY IN PLACE!
  3. Say No to Canadian snow crab until Canada implements regulatory measures that adequately reduce the risk of entanglement to North Atlantic right whales.
  4. Eat Lobster?  Preferentially ask for lobster fished from Massachusetts where restrictions to reduce entanglements are more comprehensive than anywhere else in the US or Canada. 
  5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Refuse. The very real issue of a changing climate is putting right whales at risk as they move to new habitats where protective regulations do not exist.  Your simple efforts to reduce/reuse/recycle/refuse plastics and conserve your energy consumption is an effective way to make a difference. 
 

THE JOURNEY OF A RIGHT WHALE from NARW Consortium on Vimeo.

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