Quantcast

Sixth North Atlantic Right Whale Found Dead Prompts Concern From Researchers

Animals
Right whale and calf off Amelia Island, FL on Jan. 7, 2019. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Researchers are calling for urgent action following the death of a sixth North Atlantic right whale in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence this year.


Considered one of the most endangered species of whale in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, the North Atlantic right whale population is decreasing with only about 400 animals left in the world and just 100 breeding females. As the slow-moving baleen whales follow food sources, researchers at Dalhousie University say their behavioral and feeding patterns must be tracked in order to save the species.

"It could be that the whales are in different places or are choosing different routes into the Gulf and that made these measures somewhat ineffective. So, we have to go back and find out where the whales are, predict their distribution and take measures to protect them," said university marine biologist Boris Worm.

It appears the whales are shifting movements, making vessel speed and traffic restrictions in place to protect the whales less effective. Necropsies carried out this year suggest some of the whales died from collisions with ships — an increasingly common and fatal occurrence.

Among the dead were Punctuation, a 40-year-old female named for comma-like propeller scarring on her head who had given birth to at least eight calves and grand mothered at least two in her lifetime, reports Mongabay. Nine-year-old Wolverine, named for three propeller markings on his tail, was the first to be found dead followed by two dead females, including Clipper. Canadian Fisheries and Oceans announced Tuesday in a tweet that Clipper, a 34-year-old grandfather who was spotted floating in the Gulf last week, also died from blunt force trauma due to a vessel strike. In all, six dead whales, two males and four females, have been spotted over the last month in Canada.

"Protecting our endangered North Atlantic right whales is an important task, one that our government takes seriously. We will continue to work with our partners to ensure the safety of these marine mammals, as well as vessels, and crew," said Transport Canada.

The toll this year is nearing levels last seen in 2017 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared an unusual mortality event after a 17 right whales were confirmed dead — a majority of which were due to suspected blunt force trauma from vessel strikes

A study published last month in the journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms found that 90 percent determinable of North Atlantic right whale deaths between 2003 and 2018 were due to entanglements in fishing gear or vessel strikes, The New York Times points out. Strikingly, none of the adult or juvenile deaths were from natural causes. The number of right whale deaths this year has already outnumbered deaths the species could tolerate to maintain a stable population, reports The Atlantic.

"We have to double down on working on this. This is devastating, you really get this sinking feeling that something's not working. It feels like it's going down the same lines," said Worm.

In addition to ship collision, North Atlantic right whales are threatened by food depletion, low calving rates and chronic stress.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Emily Deanne

Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.

Read More Show Less
Kokia drynarioides, commonly known as Hawaiian tree cotton, is a critically endangered species of flowering plant that is endemic to the Big Island of Hawaii. David Eickhoff / Wikipedia

By Lorraine Chow

Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Frederick Bass / Getty Images

States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A couple works in their organic garden. kupicoo / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristin Ohlson

From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A competitor in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships in Uummannaq, Greenland on April 9, 2001. Michael Steele / Allsport / Getty Images

Greenland is open for business, but it's not for sale, Greenland's foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters after hearing that President Donald Trump asked his advisers about the feasibility of buying the world's largest island.

Read More Show Less
AFP / Getty Images / S. Platt

Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Newly established oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.

It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."

Read More Show Less