Please join us at 7:00 pm at Sandy Creek Nature Center for our monthly meeting, where we will host Hans Neuhauser to discuss Right Whale conservation!
Is the North Atlantic Right Whale a Canary in the Mine?
A lecture on the North Atlantic Right Whale and its past, present and future
By Hans Neuhauser
Northern Right Whale Recovery Team
And Retired Executive Director
Georgia Land Conservation Center, Athens
The North Atlantic Right Whale is the most endangered large whale in the world. There are an estimated 451 individuals remaining. How did the species get to be in such a precarious position? Because it was the right whale to kill. When the whale’s only known calving ground was discovered off the coast of Georgia in 1982, a recovery effort was undertaken in both the United States and Canada to help bring these whales back from the brink of extinction. The combined efforts of scientists, fishermen, the shipping industry, conservationists and both US and Canadian government agencies have contributed – I believe significantly- to an increase in numbers from about 300 animals in 1990 to the present 451. In spite of this gradual increase, recovery is not assured. While no longer hunted for their oil and baleen plates, right whales continue to be hit by ships and become entangled in fishing gear. Last year, 16 right whales died, 4 in US waters and 12 in Canadian waters. Also, reproduction rates have fallen dramatically: only 5 calves were born in 2017. The number for 2018 are not available yet, but so far this year, zero calves have been sighted in southeastern waters. The future is precarious, in part due to natural causes and in part due to human causes. We can’t do much about the former but we – both US and Canadians – can reduce human impacts – IF WE WANT TO!