August 29, 2018- Over the weekend, a family boating off Martha’s Vineyard located a whale carcass and was understandably excited to witness nature in action as sharks scavenged the remains. However, the circle of life sighting was far less welcome to the conservation community once it was determined that the dead whale was a North Atlantic right whale, making this the 19th known mortality in the past 16 months. No apparent cause of death could be determined due to the decomposition of the carcass; however, researchers obtained genetic samples in hopes of identifying the whale to a known animal in the North Atlantic right whale catalog.
Fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales remain and of those, only approximately 100 are breeding females. Sadly, no new calves were born during the most recent calving season. The species has been in decline since 2010 as the threats of fishing gear entanglements, vessel strikes, and a changing climate plague their recovery.
While efforts to protect right whales in Canadian waters have increased, proposals by the US government will only further reduce protections for this imperilled species. From reductions in protections under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act and the US Endangered Species Act to proposals to allow seismic oil exploration in right whale habitat, the recommended actions by the current US Administration pave a path toward the extinction of right whales.
Research demonstrates that the survival of right whales is intrinsically linked to our own. As ecosystem engineers, North Atlantic right whales enhance primary productivity in the ocean, ultimately supporting the production of oxygen, enhancing fish stocks, and reducing the impacts of climate change.
“The extinction of right whales is preventable” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, WDC-NA executive director. “They face extinction because of human causes and therefore can survive with human solutions. Both their and our futures depend on it.”
(Image copyright: NOAA Fisheries)
Here is a video showing the decomposed body of the right whale and a shark feeding off of it. Warning: video may be disturbing to some viewers.
What you can do:
Send a hand written note to your representative, and click through their webpage to find the address of their DC office. (Email is ok, too, although we feel that a hardcopy will be most effective) Ask them to:
- Defend the Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts
- Oppose permits to allow seismic exploration along the US east coast
- Maintain the boundaries and protections of currently designated National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine Monuments
Donate to WDC’s fighting fund so we can keep giving whales and dolphins a fighting chance!