MAR 26, 2018 5:42 PM PDT

The North Atlantic Right Whale is in Trouble

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the North Atlantic right whale as an endangered species, and consequently, animal conservationists have been monitoring its reproduction patterns since 1989 in an attempt learn more about them.

A North Atlantic right whale mother and her calf swimming together in the Atlantic Ocean from another season.

Image Credit: Brian J. Skerry/National Geographic Creative

Unfortunately, it appears as if 2017 wasn’t much of a productive year for the North Atlantic right whale. Spotters have been searching for calves from airplanes since December, but have yet to spot one. Unsurprisingly, conservationists fear the worst for the species.

"It's a pivotal moment for right whales," explained Barb Zoodsma of the National Marine Fisheries Service. "If we don't get serious and figure this out, it very well could be the beginning of the end."

Related: Is there a link between the Northern lights and whale beachings?

The marine mammals swim into the warmer tropical waters for the breeding season, and that’s when spotters typically see the calves swimming with their parental units. In most cases, North Atlantic right whale calf sightings peak between January and February.

But not this time. In fact, this is the first time spotters haven’t laid eyes on any North Atlantic right whale calves since the spotting program began in 1989. The alarming news paints an eerie picture of the species’ current conservation situation.

Current estimates suggest that there are only 450 North Atlantic right whales remaining in the wild today. From that, just 100 are breeding females. To make matters even worse, there were more than a dozen reports of North American right whale beachings in 2017 alone.

"It is truly alarming," added right whale researcher Philip Hamilton from the New England Aquarium in Boston. "Following a year of such high mortality, it's clear the population can't sustain that trajectory."

Related: Humpback whale calves 'whisper' to their mothers to avoid predation

Experts aren’t entirely sure why spotters have been unable to find any North Atlantic right whale calves in the wild during this breeding season, but they may get lucky and spot a few as the creatures begin their Northward trek for the Spring season. Then again, no one’s holding their breath.

The dire circumstances underscore the need for immediate action to prevent the species from going extinct. Sadly, animal conservation is a challenging task that requires tons of funding, and sometimes the resources aren’t all there.

"I do think we can turn this around," Zoodsma added. "But it's sort of like, what's our willpower to do so? This is a time for all hands on deck."

It should be interesting to see if any calves turn up before all the North Atlantic right whales return to higher latitudes.

Source: National Geographic, Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
APR 21, 2020
Plants & Animals
Male Silverback Gorilla Gets Rejected After Attempt to Impress Female
APR 21, 2020
Male Silverback Gorilla Gets Rejected After Attempt to Impress Female
Silverback gorillas are somewhat renowned for their powerful arms and legs. In many cases, males use their brute strengt ...
APR 26, 2020
Plants & Animals
Researchers Observe Vocal Learning in Bats
APR 26, 2020
Researchers Observe Vocal Learning in Bats
Bats have garnered oodles of attention in previous weeks as they’ve been identified as potential carriers of the i ...
MAY 04, 2020
Plants & Animals
A Capuchin Monkey's Curiosity Can Sometimes Cloud its Judgement
MAY 04, 2020
A Capuchin Monkey's Curiosity Can Sometimes Cloud its Judgement
Capuchin monkeys are highly intelligent animals, but they’re also rather curious. They’ve adapted to communi ...
MAY 05, 2020
Plants & Animals
When Rival Baboon Troops Collide, Only Chaos Ensues
MAY 05, 2020
When Rival Baboon Troops Collide, Only Chaos Ensues
Troops of Hamadryas baboons can reach numbers of 400 strong without a single particular leader. Albeit large, these troo ...
MAY 24, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
How CRISPR Can Aid in Wildlife Conservation
MAY 24, 2020
How CRISPR Can Aid in Wildlife Conservation
Since it was developed, researchers have modified and applied the CRISPR gene editing technology in many different ways.
MAY 26, 2020
Earth & The Environment
"Green Snow" Expected to Increase in Antarctica
MAY 26, 2020
"Green Snow" Expected to Increase in Antarctica
When Antarctica comes to mind, the imagery probably includes a vast, frozen, and barren landscape. However, red and gree ...
Loading Comments...