Feb 9, 2024 - In a critical update on the plight of North Atlantic right whales, NOAA has underscored the vital importance of every female whale and calf in the species' recovery efforts. So far this calving season a total of 17 calves have been identified marking a significant development in the ongoing conservation efforts.
The situation for North Atlantic right whales remains dire, with the species facing a grave threat of extinction due to human-induced factors. There are approximately 360 individuals remaining, including fewer than 70 reproductively active females. With so few of these whales left, researchers closely monitor the Southeast for new offspring during the annual right whale calving season.
Since 2017, the North Atlantic right whale has been caught in the grips of an Unusual Mortality Event, with over 20 percent of the population falling victim to sickness, injuries, or fatalities primarily attributed to entanglements in fishing gear and collisions with maritime vessels.
With fewer than 70 reproductively active females remaining, the reproductive capacity of the species is dwindling. Researchers warn of a disturbing trend where female whales, under immense stress from various environmental pressures, are giving birth to calves at extended intervals of 6 to 10 years on average. This decline in calving rates exacerbates the challenge of replenishing the population.
To reverse the decline and facilitate recovery, experts emphasise the urgent need to curb human-caused mortality and injuries, alongside addressing stressors that hamper reproduction. Only through concerted efforts to mitigate these threats can the North Atlantic right whale population hope for a sustainable future.