Right whales need our help

The North Atlantic right whale population has now experienced nearly twice as many deaths (9) as births (5) this year.The summer of 2017 has been a most challenging one for the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale and those who work to rescue and protect them. Reports that at least 10 right whales have been found dead, combined with a very low number of calves born (only five calves have been observed this year), is cause for concern. In July, the animal rescue and conservation community was further devastated by the loss of Joe Howlett, a founding member of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team (CWRT) who died after successfully disentangling a right whale. 

Faced with continuing threats to the survival of the North Atlantic Right Whale, the Government of Canada is asking Canadians for their thoughts on the matter. Please send an email now to dfo.letstalkwhales-parlonsbaleines.mpo@dfo-mpo.gc.ca and let them know that together we can protect these critically endangered whales.

We are asking the government of Canada to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale by:

  • Working with the fishing industry and right whale biologists to review commercial fishing seasons and configuration of gear to reduce the threat of entanglement in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,
  • Working with the shipping industry to examine routes and speed limits to reduce threat of vessel strikes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,
  • Increasing funding for research to better understand the season and geographic area of the right whale habitat in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,
  • Educating marine industries about the presence of right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and
  • Working with DFO and the fishing industry to build capacity for response to entangled whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

IFAW welcomes Canada’s Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc's commitment to protecting North Atlantic right whales. Minister LeBlanc has stated that the federal government will bring "absolutely every protection to bear" in preventing deaths of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, citing changes to shipping lanes, increased aerial surveillance, remote-controlled acoustic equipment or changes to fishing gear as being among the possibilities. The government has also asked fishermen to report all right whale sightings.

Southern right whale off the coast of AustraliaNamed for being the ‘right’ whale to hunt, these slow swimming mammals have been protected from hunting since 1935, yet today fewer than 500 right whales survive. Humans threaten them in multiple ways, including ship collisions, entanglement in fishing gear, habitat loss and degradation, climate change and ocean noise pollution.

Every individual whale is vital for the survival of this species. The death rate of this endangered species is so alarming that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) closed down several snow crab trapping areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and implemented a temporary mandatory slow-down of vessels 20 meters or more travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Initial results from necropsies performed on six whales point to ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear as the cause. Four of the whales have been females, which is a major concern because of the the loss of reproductive potential. Right whale females have their first calf around 10 years of age after a gestation period of one year and calves aren’t weaned until they are almost a year old.

In addition to supporting the CWRT, IFAW has assisted with one of the necropsies on a whale found in the waters off Cape Cod so that we can learn as much as we can from her tragic death and gain valuable insight in hopes to further protect the species.  IFAW also supported the development of the Whale Alert App that works to protect whales by alerting ships, rescuers and researchers to whale activity and contributing to ongoing whale research. 

Please send an email now to dfo.letstalkwhales-parlonsbaleines.mpo@dfo-mpo.gc.ca and let them know that together we can protect these critically endangered whales.

--PZ

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Experts

Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation