North Atlantic right whale

The North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis, which means "good, or true, whale of the ice") is a baleen whale, one of three right whale species belonging to the genus Eubalaena,[1] all of which were formerly classified as a single species. Because of their docile nature, their slow surface-skimming feeding behaviors, their tendencies to stay close to the coast, and their high blubber content (which makes them float when they are killed, and which produced high yields of whale oil), right whales were once a preferred target for whalers. At present, they are among the most endangered whales in the world,[6] and they are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act and Canada's Species at Risk Act. There are about 400 individuals in existence in the western North Atlantic Ocean—they migrate between feeding grounds in the Labrador Sea and their winter calving areas off Georgia and Florida, an ocean area with heavy shipping traffic. In the eastern North Atlantic, on the other hand—with a total population reaching into the low teens at best—scientists believe that they may already be functionally extinct.[6] Vessel strikes and entanglement in fixed fishing gear, which together account for nearly half of all North Atlantic right whale mortality since 1970,[7] are their two greatest threats to recovery.[8][9]

North Atlantic right whale[1]
Eubalaena glacialis with calf
Mother and calf
Right whale size
Size compared to an average human
CITES Appendix I (CITES)[3]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Infraorder: Cetacea
Family: Balaenidae
Genus: Eubalaena
Species:
E. glacialis
Binomial name
Eubalaena glacialis
(Müller, 1776)
Cypron-Range Eubalaena glacialis
Range map
Synonyms[4][5]
  • Balaena biscayensis Eschricht, 1860
  • B. glacialis Müller, 1776
  • B. glacialis glacialis Scheffer & Rice, 1963
  • B. mysticetus islandica Kerr, 1792
  • B. nordcaper Lacépède, 1804
  • Baloena glacialis Robineau, 1989
  • E. glacialis glacialis Tomilin, 1957
  • Hunterius swedenborgii Lilljeborg, 1867
  • Macleayius britannicus Gray, 1870

Description

Like other right whales, the North Atlantic right whale, also known as the northern right whale or black right whale,[2] is readily distinguished from other whales by the callosities on its head, a broad back without a dorsal fin, and a long arching mouth that begins above the eye. The body of the whale is very dark grey or black, occasionally with white patches on the belly. The right whale's callosities appear white due to large colonies of cyamids or whale lice.

Adult North Atlantic right whales average 13–16 m (43–52 ft) in length and weigh approximately 40,000 to 70,000 kg (44 to 77 short tons), they are slightly smaller on average than the North Pacific species.[10] The largest measured specimens have been 18.5 m (61 ft) long[11] and 106,000 kg (234,000 lb). Females are larger than males.

Forty percent of a right whale's body weight is blubber, which is of relatively low density. Consequently, unlike many other species of whale, dead right whales float.

There is little data on their life span, but it is believed to be at least fifty years, and some may live more than a century.

Behavior

Surface activities

Aside from mating activities performed by groups of single female and several males, so called SAG (Surface Active Group), North Atlantic right whales seem less active compared to subspecies in southern hemisphere. However, this could be due to intense difference in number of surviving individuals especially calves that tend to be more curious and playful than adults, and small amount of observations. They are also known to interact with other baleen whales especially with Humpback whales[12] or Bottlenose dolphins.[13]

Vocalization

North Atlantic right whales recordings are available online.[14][15] Many effective automated methods, such as signal processing, data mining, and machine learning techniques are used to detect and classify their calls.[16]

Reproduction

North Atlantic right whales are promiscuous breeders.[17] They first give birth at age nine or ten after a year-long gestation; the interval between births seems to have increased in recent years and now averages three to six years. Calves are 13–15 feet (4.0–4.6 m) long at birth and weigh approximately 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg).[18]

Feeding

Right whales feed mainly on copepods and other small invertebrates such as krill, pteropods, and larval barnacles, generally by slowly skimming through patches of concentrated prey at or below the ocean surface.[2] Sei whales and Basking sharks (sometimes Minke whales as well) are in positions as food competitors and are known to feed in the same areas, swimming next to each other,[19] but there have not been any conflicts observed between these species.

Taxonomy

Bay Wharf whale Picture 0113
North Atlantic right whale skeleton found on the Thames in 2010 at Bay Wharf, Greenwich

The cladogram is a tool for visualizing and comparing the evolutionary relationships between taxa. The point where a node branches off is analogous to an evolutionary branching – the diagram can be read left-to-right, much like a timeline. The following cladogram of the family Balaenidae serves to illustrate the current scientific consensus as to the relationships between the North Atlantic right whale and the other members of its family.

Family Balaenidae
 Family Balaenidae 
  Eubalaena (right whales)  

 E. glacialis North Atlantic right whale

 E. japonica North Pacific right whale

 E. australis Southern right whale

 Balaena (bowhead whales) 

 B. mysticetus bowhead whale

The right whale family, Balaenidae[20]

Another so-called species of right whale, the "Swedenborg whale" as proposed by Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century, was by scientific consensus once thought to be the North Atlantic right whale. However, the 2013 results of DNA analysis of those fossil bones revealed that they were in fact those of the bowhead whale.[21]

Whaling

La Baleine
Whaling in small wooden boats with hand harpoons was a hazardous enterprise, even when hunting the "right" whale.

As the "right" whale continued to float long after being killed, it was possible to 'flech' or strip the whale of blubber without having to take it onboard ship. Combined with the right whale's lack of speed through water, feeding habits, and coastal habitat, they were easy to catch, even for whalers equipped only with wooden boats and hand-held harpoons.[22]

Basques were the first to commercially hunt this species. They began whaling in the Bay of Biscay as early as the eleventh century.[23] The whales were hunted initially for whale oil but, as meat preservation technology improved, their value as food increased. Basque whalers reached eastern Canada by 1530.[24] The last Basque whaling voyages were made prior to the commencement of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). A few attempts were made to revive the trade, but they failed. Shore whaling continued sporadically into the 19th century. It had previously been assumed that Basque whaling in eastern Canada had been the primary cause for the depletion of the sub-population in the western North Atlantic, but later genetic studies disproved this.[25][26]

No-nb bldsa 3d002
A 46-foot long whale, possibly taken by Captain L. Berg in Dyre Fjord (is)[27] during a marine research expedition to the Norwegian Sea, Iceland and Jan Mayen in the 19th century (by Fridtjof Nansen)

Setting out from Nantucket and New Bedford in Massachusetts and from Long Island, New York, Americans took up to one hundred right whales each year, with the records including one report of 29 whales killed in Cape Cod Bay in a single day during January 1700.[28] By 1750, the North Atlantic right whale population was, for commercial purposes, depleted. Yankee whalers moved into the South Atlantic before the end of the 18th century. The population was so low by the mid-19th century that the famous Whitby whaler Rev. William Scoresby, son of the successful British whaler William Scoresby senior (1760–1829), claimed to have never seen a right whale (although he mainly hunted bowhead whales off eastern Greenland, outside the normal range of right whales).[29]

Based on back calculations using the present population size and growth rate, the population may have numbered fewer than 100 individuals by 1935.[28] As it became clear that hunting right whales was unsustainable, international protection for right whales came into effect, as the practice was banned globally in 1937. The ban was largely successful, although violations continued for several decades. Madeira took its last two right whales in 1967.[30]

Threats

For the period 1970 to October 2006, humans have been responsible for 48% of the 73 documented deaths of the North Atlantic right whale.[7] A 2001 forecast showed a declining population trend in the late 1990s, and indicated a high probability that North Atlantic right whales would go extinct within 200 years if the then-existing anthropogenic mortality rate was not curtailed.[31] The combined factors of small population size and low annual reproductive rate of right whales mean that a single death represents a significant increase in mortality rate. Conversely, significant reduction in the mortality rate can be obtained by preventing just a few deaths. It was calculated that preventing the deaths of just two females per year would enable the population to stabilize.[31] The data suggests, therefore, that human sources of mortality may have a greater effect relative to population growth rates of North Atlantic right whales than for other whales. The principal factors known to be retarding growth and recovery of the population are ship strikes and entanglement with fishing gear.[28][32]

Ship strikes

Stumpy right whale NC
Skeleton of "Stumpy",[33] a North Atlantic right whale whose death by ship strike[34] helped lead to laws that require slower cargo ship speeds in whale migration routes.

The single greatest danger to this species is injury sustained from ship strikes.[35] Between 1970 and October 2006, 37% of all recorded North Atlantic right whale deaths were attributed to collisions.[7][22] During the years 1999–2003, incidents of mortality and serious injury attributed to ship strikes averaged 1 per year. For the years 2004–2006, that number increased to 2.6.[2] Additionally, it is possible that the official figures actually underestimate the actual ship-strike mortality rates, since whales struck in offshore areas may never be sighted due to low search effort.[7] In 2017, an unprecedented mortality event occurred in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada: Twelve endangered North Atlantic right whales were found dead.[32]

In 2002, the International Maritime Organization shifted the location of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS, i.e. shipping lanes) in the Bay of Fundy (and approaches) from an area with the highest density of North Atlantic right whales to an area of lower density.[36] This was the first time the IMO had changed a TSS to help protect marine mammals.[37] In 2006, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established a set of recommended vessel routes to reduce ship strikes in four important eastern-US right whale habitats.[38] In 2007, and again on June 1, 2009, NOAA changed the TSS servicing Boston to reduce vessel collisions with right whales and other whale species.[39] NOAA estimated that implementing an "Area To Be Avoided" (ATBA) and narrowing the TSS by 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) would reduce the relative risk of right whale ship strikes by 74% during April–July (63% from the ATBA and 11% from the narrowing of the TSS).[40] In 2008, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and NOAA enacted a series of vessel speed restrictions to reduce ship collisions with North Atlantic right whales for ships in certain areas along the East Coast of the United States in order to reduce the probability of fatal ship strikes.

Fishing gear entanglement

Post0025 - Flickr - NOAA Photo Library
Disentanglement by NOAA staff off Jacksonville, Florida

The next greatest source of human-induced mortality is entanglement in fixed fishing gear such as bottom-set groundfish gillnet gear, cod traps and lobster pots. Between 1970 and October 2006, there have been 8 instances where entanglements have been the direct cause of death of North Atlantic right whales. This represents 11% of all deaths documented during that period. From 1986 to 2005, there were a total of 61 confirmed reports of entanglements, including the aforementioned mortalities. It is likely that official figures underestimate the actual impacts of entanglement. It is believed that chronically entangled animals may in fact sink upon death, due to loss of buoyancy from depleted blubber reserves, and therefore escape detection.[7]

Beyond direct mortality, it is believed that a whale that survives an entanglement episode may suffer other negative effects that may weaken it, reduce fertility, or otherwise affect it so that it is more likely to become vulnerable to further injury. Because whales often free themselves of gear following an entanglement event, scarring may be a better indicator of fisheries interaction than entanglement sightings. A 2012 analysis of the scarification of right whales showed that through 2009, 82.9% of all North Atlantic right whales have experienced at least one fishing gear entanglement; 59.0% have had more than one such experience. In all, from 1980–2009, an average of 15.5% of the population are entangled in fishing gear annually.[41]

In 2007, so as to protect northern right whales from serious injury or mortality from entanglement in gillnet gear in their calving area in Atlantic Ocean waters off the southeast United States, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) revised regulations implementing the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP). This plan expands the restricted area to include the waters off of South Carolina, Georgia, and Northern Florida. It also prohibits gillnet fishing or even gillnet possession in those waters for a period of five months, beginning on November 15 of each year, which coincides with the annual right whale calving season.[42]

When entanglement prevention efforts fail, disentanglement efforts occasionally succeed, despite the fact that such efforts are more frequently impossible or unsuccessful. Nevertheless, they do in fact make a significant difference because saving a few whales in a population of only 400 has a large positive effect against mortality rates. During the period 2004–2008 there were at least four documented cases of entanglements for which the intervention of disentanglement teams averted a likely death of a right whale.[28] For the first time in 2009 and again in 2011, scientists successfully used chemical sedation of an entangled whale to reduce stress on the animal and to reduce the time spent working with it. After disentangling the whale, scientists attached a satellite tracking tag, administered a dose of antibiotics to treat entanglement wounds and then another drug to reverse the sedation.[8] Despite concerns that the trauma might impair reproduction, researchers confirmed in January 2013 that three disentangled whales had given birth.[43]

Due to recently increased presences of right whales in Cape Breton to St. Lawrence regions, increases in entanglements and possible ship strikes have been confirmed[44][45][46] as well including serious fatal cases[47] involving three whales between June 24 and July 13, 2015.[48]

Noise

A 2011 analysis of data collected in the Bay of Fundy has shown that exposure to low-frequency ship noise may be associated with chronic physiological stress in North Atlantic right whales.[49]

Naval training near calving grounds

The US Navy proposed plans to build a new undersea naval sonar training range immediately adjacent to northern right whale calving grounds in shallow waters off the Florida/Georgia border. In September 2012, legal challenges by leading environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council were denied in federal court, allowing the Navy to proceed.[50][51]

Climate change

Climate change poses a threat to the North Atlantic right whale as global temperatures increase and ocean processes change. Long migratory periods, gestations, and time gaps between calves results in slow-growing right whale populations.[52] A brief change in food availability can affect right whale populations for years after. Females must have access to plenty of food to successfully make it through pregnancy and produce enough milk to rear a calf. To illustrate the species’ sensitivity to food availability, in 1998 zooplankton populations dropped dramatically following a climate shift. Even though zooplankton abundance began to rise again in 1999, right whales have such a long reproduction and migratory cycle that the population was greatly affected by the minimal food availability from the year before. In 1999, only one right whale calf was born, compared to the 21 that were born in 1996, before the climate shift. In 2001, after the zooplankton populations greatly recovered, 30 calves were born.[53]

Zooplankton abundance has been found to be associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the most influential climate force in the Northern Hemisphere.[54] Periodically, pressure anomalies in the system shift from positive to negative as determined by the NAO Index, affecting temperatures and wind patterns. Abundant zooplankton populations have been linked to a positive NAO Index. As global temperatures increase, the NAO is predicted to shift more often and to greater intensities.[55] These shifts will likely greatly affect the abundance of zooplankton, posing a great risk for right whale populations that cannot rapidly adapt to a new food source.

Population and distribution

It is not known how many populations of North Atlantic right whales existed prior to whaling, but the majority of studies usually consider that there were historically two populations, one each in the eastern and western North Atlantic. There are however two other hypotheses which claim, respectively, one super-population among the entire North Atlantic (with mixing of eastern and western migratory routes occurring at locations in relatively high latitudes such as in the Denmark Strait), and three sub-populations of eastern, western, and central Atlantic right whales (with the central stock ranging from Greenland's Cape Farewell in summer to the Azores, Bermuda, and Bahamas in winter,[56][57] although recent study indicates that the Azores had probably been a migratory corridor rather than a wintering ground).[58]

Recent studies revealed that modern counterparts of the eastern and western populations are genetically much closer to each other than previously thought.[59] Right whales' habitat can be affected dramatically by climate changes along with Bowhead whales.[60]

Western population

Eubalaena glacialis smiling
Continuous callosities are visible which are distinctive to the Atlantic species.

In spring, summer and autumn, the western North Atlantic population feeds in a range stretching from Massachusetts to Newfoundland. Particularly popular feeding areas are the Bay of Fundy, the Gulf of Maine and Cape Cod Bay.[61] In winter, they head south towards Georgia and Florida to give birth. According to census of individual whales identified using photo-identification techniques, the latest available stock assessment data (August 2012) indicates that a minimum of 396 recognized individuals were known to be alive in the western North Atlantic in 2010, up from 361 in 2005.[6][28] Distributions within other parts of Bay of Fundy is rather unknown, although whales are occasionally observed at various locations in northern parts such as in Baxters Harbour[62] or at Campobello Island.[63]

Though their numbers are still scarce, some right whales migrate regularly into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, notably around the Gaspé Peninsula[64][65] and in the Chaleur Bay,[66][67][68][69] and up to Anticosti Island, Tadoussac and in the St. Lawrence River[70][71][72] such as at Rouge Island.[73] Until 1994, whales were regarded as rather vagrant migrants into St. Lawrence region, however annual concentrations of whales were discovered off Percé in 1995 and sightings in entire St. Lawrence regions have been shown gradual increases since in 1998.[74] For example, in the survey conducted by the Canadian Whale Institute in 2006, three whales were detected off the peninsula.[75] Some whales including cow and calf pairs also appear around Cape Breton Island with notable increasing regularities in recent years, notably since in 2014, and about 35 to 40 whales were confirmed around Prince Edward Island and Gaspe Peninsula in 2015.[45] Further, the whales' regular range is known to reach up to off Newfoundland and the Labrador Sea, and several have been found in a former whaling ground east of Greenland's southern tip.[76]

Parts of the western group, especially for those seen regularly in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, display different migratory or calving routines than other whales and these are so-called "Offshore Whales". There could be various areas along or off the west coasts where could have been frequented by whales potentially and might be re-colonized in the future such as Quoddy, Eastport,[77] Plymouth Harbor,[78] Sagamore Beach,[79] Island of Nantucket, Florida Bay, Pamlico Sound, Gulf of Mexico (as far as to Texas[80][81]), Bahamas, Long Island Sound and vicinity to New York City,[82][83] the mouth of Potomac River, Delaware and Chesapeake Bay, the mouth of Altamaha River,[84] Cape Canaveral, Sebastian Inlet and around Melbourne, and so on. As the population grows, it's also highly possible that more whales would start using rivers or river mouths, shallow estuaries, smaller inlets or bays. Whales have already seen repeatedly at various of these such as Indian River Inlet,[85][86][87] Delaware River,[88][89] Cape Cod Canal,[90] Jacksonville Drum,[91] and so on.

In early 2009, scientists recorded a record number of births among the western North Atlantic population. 39 new calves were recorded, born off the Atlantic coast of Florida and Georgia:

"Right whales, for the first time in a long time, are doing their part: they're having the babies; they're having record numbers of babies. We need to be vigilant and still do our part to prevent the whales from being killed."

— Monica Zani, New England Aquarium, Endangered right whales appear to be on the rebound, CNN.com[18]

In contrast, 2012 appears to have been the worst calving season since 2000, with only seven calves sighted – and one of those is believed to have died. This is significantly below the annual average of 20 calves per year over the last decade.[6] As the gestation period for right whales is a year long, researchers believe that a lack of food in the whales' summer feeding grounds in the Bay of Fundy during the summer of 2010 may be linked to the poor season in 2012.[92]

The right whale was purported to have reached a population of 500 in the North Atlantic, which was assumed to have been achieved for the first time in centuries, when counted in 2013.[93] The population of the whale has been increasing at about 2.5 percent per year, but this is below the optimal goal of 6 or 7 percent that researchers were hoping to attain.[93]

Sightings in recent years Aerial and shipboard surveys are conducted annually to locate and record seasonal distribution of North Atlantic right whales along the northeast and southeast United States coast. Researchers identify individual right whales, document whale behavior, monitor new calves, and respond to entangled whales.[94] The surveys have been used to produce seasonal maps showing the density of right whales (number of animals per square kilometer) throughout the U.S. east coast and Nova Scotia.[95]

NOAA Fisheries maintains an interactive map of recent right whale sightings.

Eastern population

In the eastern North Atlantic, the right whale population probably numbers in the low double digits at best, with little information known about their distribution and migration pattern. Scientists believe that this population may be functionally extinct.[6] The last catch occurred in February 1967 from a pod of three animals including a cow-calf pair: one escaped in Madeira and one was taken in the Azores.[96]

Cintra Bay[97] and Bahia Gorrei,[98] about 150 kilometers south of Villa Cisneros in the Western Sahara, the only known historical calving ground for this group, host no animals (or if any, then likely very few) nowadays, holding a situation similar to the Bay of Biscay area where many whales once congregated throughout years. Although there were several sightings in the late 20th century (see Bay of Biscay) and catch records indicate whales historically used the bay for both feeding and wintering, it is still unclear whether or not the Biscayne coasts were ever used as calving grounds. Other parts of coastlines or oceanic islands from Iberian Peninsula and Portugal to Morocco in north to south possibly reaching even Mauritania to Senegal.[99] Locations such as Dakhla Peninsula and Bay of Arguin had been served potentially as wintering grounds similar to the Cintra and Gorrei Bays region. Historic presence of any summering or wintering grounds within the Mediterranean Basin including Black and Azov Sea is unknown although it has been considered to be feasible.[100]

Entire European regions including French coasts, Hebrides, North Sea and Baltic Seas, and further north up to Swedish, Norwegian and Svalbard areas were once ranged by whales. Phenology of catch records in the early twentieth century in Nordic countries shows that whale presences in northern waters was at peak in June.[96] In Ireland, catches were concentrated in the first half of June until 1930s and preceded catch in the Scottish bases of the Hebrides[101] which were concentrated in the second half of June and July, and this indicates that those whales were likely to migrate along Irish coasts. Of all modern whaling grounds in European waters, Hebrides and the Shetland Islands were the center of whaling in the early 20th century, and any records afterwards these catches became scarce in eastern Atlantic where only two cow-calf pairs had been documented.[96]

Any calm waters in north such as Porth Neigwl, the Wadden Sea region,[102] Cornwall coasts, Moray Firth and in Irish Sea[103] could have been migratory colliders/feeding or resting grounds, or seasonal habitats to stay for less-migrating or resident (fully or partially) individuals. Some might have reached to entrance of Baltic Sea and northern Scandinavian. Based on historical records, Scandinavian waters once had been a potential feeding area,[103] and this idea corresponds with behaviors of the below mentioned vagrant individual "Porter"[104] recorded in 1999 when he stayed in the fjord for several weeks, indicating the area provided to him a feasible condition for summering. Historical records suggest that summering grounds could have reached further north to northern coasts of Scandinavian Peninsula, and some might have turned up at the mouth of Hudson Bay.[105]

Predicted summering range models suggest that small numbers of right whales could have been present year-round in the Mediterranean Sea although it is unclear whether whales ever penetrated Turkish Straits to Marmara, Black, and Azov Seas (historical presences at northern Aegean Sea were considered in this study which didn't include the northernmost basins in study areas).[106]

Sightings and confirmations in recent years

Orion harrapatutako azken balea (1901)
The last whale killed in Orio

There have been a few sightings further east over the past few decades, with several sightings close to Iceland in 2003. There was speculation that these could be the remains of a virtually extinct Eastern Atlantic stock, but examination of old whalers' records suggest that they are more likely to be strays from further west.[24] A few have been sighted in waters adjacent to Norway (two documented sightings in 1926 and 1999), Ireland,[107][108] shelf waters west of Scotland,[109] Irish Sea,[103] the Bay of Biscay in Spain, off the Iberian Peninsula, a cow-calf pair at Cape St. Vincent in Portugal, and continuous sightings of a single animal off the southwestern Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1995. Subsequently, there have been two more sightings in Benderlau, La Gomera and some other observations were reported in Portugal and Galicia. A whale of unknown species, thought to be a right whale, was seen off Steenbanken, Schouwen-Duiveland (Netherlands) in July 2005 and was possibly the same animal previously seen off Texel in the West Frisian Islands.[110] Another possible sighting was made along Lizard Point, Cornwall in May 2012.[111]

Few recent sightings have also been recorded from pelagic waters such as off Hebrides[112] and on Rockall Basin[113] as late as in 2000s.

Right whales have also on rare occasion been observed in the Mediterranean Sea.[100] Since the two records of a stranding (Italy) and a capture of one of a pair seen (Algeria) in early 20th century, one sighting recorded in Dutch sighting scheme possibly between 1954 and 1957,[96] only one possible sighting have been confirmed. In May 1991, a petty officer of the Italian Navy happened to be in the water with his camera about 13 km (8.1 mi) off the small island of Sant' Antioco (southwestern Sardinia), when a right whale happened to swim by[114] – his photos comprise the only confirmed sighting in the 20th century; on the other hand however, reliability of the record have been questioned due to failures to contact the photographers. Earlier known occurrences of right whales in the basin include the stranding of a juvenile near Taranto (southeastern Italy) in 1877 and the sighting of two (one of which was later captured) in the bay of Castiglione (Algiers) in 1888[115][116] and Portugal.[117] The Norway sightings appear to be of vagrants, or strays from the western Atlantic stock.[118] Catch records at Cape Verde Islands in spring-summer seasons are highly doubtful.[56]

Below is a list of some of recent records of right whales in eastern North Atlantic (not all of above-mentioned records and excluding vagrant records, according to the Spanish edition of this article). Records and confirmations close to Newfoundland, Iceland, and Cape Farewell are also excluded.

Year Location Type of record Notes
1805 Hondarribia Capture
1854 San Sebastián Capture
1878 Getaria, Gipuzkoa Capture
1893 San Sebastián Capture
1901 Orio Capture [119]
1914 Azores Capture failed [96]
Prior to 1930 Off the coast of Porto Capture [120]
Between 1939 and 1949 Capelinhos, Faial Island Observation [96]
Between 1954 and 1957 Mediterranean Sea Observation [96]
January 1959 Madeira Capture (pregnant female) [121][96]
1959–1966 Cape Clear Island, Ireland 5 separate observations [96]
1964 Off Cork, Ireland Observation
(uncertain being included in above records)
[122]
February 1967 Madeira Capture* [123]
August 1970 Cape Clear Island, Ireland Observation [30][96]
1977 or 1978 (September) Cape Finisterre, Galicia 43°00′N 10°30′W / 43.000°N 10.500°W Observation [23]
June 1980 Bay of Biscay Observation (two whales) [96]
July–October 1980 Between Harris and St Kilda, Scotland Observation [96]
Second half of 20th century Dutch coast Bones found [124]
July 1987 Mid Atlantic, off Iceland Observation [107]
1987 Mid Atlantic, off Spain Observation [122]
1993 Near A Coruña, Estaca de Bares, Galicia Land-based observation (breaching individual) [125]
1995 Cape St. Vincent, Portugal Observation (the only cow-calf pair in recent times) [117]
Channel between Tenerife and La Gomera Observation [115]
La Gomera Two separate observations [126]
Channel between Tenerife and Gran Canaria Observation
Between Punta de Teno and Punta Scratch Observation [117][127]
Between June 1998 and January 1999 La Gomera Observation [128]
1990s or 2000s Off Donegal Two observations [129]
May 2000 Hatton Bank, off Ireland and Britain Observation [107]
July 2000 Off northern Shetland Islands Observation (unclear if duplicate of above) [130]
2012 Lizard Point, Cornwall
(possibly previously encountered by a kayaker in nearby areas)
Possible observations [111]
* A male accompanied a cow-calf and only the male fled

Vagrants from the Western Population

Some eastern sightings have been officially confirmed to be of vagrants from the western population. A right whale seen off Cape Cod in May 1999 was later seen in the Kvænangen fjord in Troms, Northern Norway in September 1999. This individual was later confirmed to be "Porter", an adult male in the catalog (No.1133). He was seen again back in Cape Cod in winter 2000, having traveled for over 7,120 miles (11,460 km), making this the longest ever traveling record of right whales.[131][132] The area vicinity to Scandinavian Peninsula was once in the historical "North Cape Ground", one of the major whaling grounds for this species in the 17th century.

In January 2009, one animal was sighted off Pico Island, Azores, the first confirmed appearance there since 1888. This animal was later identified as a female from the western Atlantic group, and nicknamed as "Pico" according to this event.[133]

Some individuals are known to show interesting patterns of movements which may possibly help researchers to deepen understandings of future re-colonization to eastern Atlantic, if possible.[134]

Possible central population

As above mentioned, the existence of a possible third population, ranging from near Iceland or Greenland in the north to Bermudas or Bahamas in the south, has been mentioned by several biologists.[56] Some right whales are now said to live primarily in Icelandic waters and occasionally join to the western population.[135] In July 2003, during a search for the possibility of right whales inhabiting the historical Cape Farewell region carried out by the research team of the New England Aquarium with Jean Lemire and a Quebec film company, a female right whale – later named "Hidalgo" due to a scar mark on her head resembling a horse – was recorded in the Irminger Sea, southwest of the Iceland coast.[136]

In 2009, right whales appeared in waters around Greenland[137] although their origin was not confirmed.[138] Prior to this, no right whales had been killed or confirmed present off the coast of Greenland for around 200 years[139] except for the sighting of "1718", a unique animal seen only twice (off Cape Farewell in July 1987 and at the Nova Scotian Shelf in June 1989). Several sightings in the area made in the 1970s may or may not be of right whales, as the critically endangered population of Bowhead whales are also present in the area.

For southward migration, the sighting of two whales displaying courtship behaviors in the Bermuda was recorded by a team of researchers including Roger Payne in April, 1970.[56]

Conservation status

Eubalaena glacialis
Reconstruction of a North Atlantic right whale
Metal whale statue in fountain, West Edmonton Mall (2005)
West Edmonton Mall's North Atlantic right whale bronze statue

In the United States, this species is listed as “endangered” by the NMFS under the Endangered Species Act.[140] It is also listed as "depleted" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.[141]

On a global level, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS, or the "Bonn Convention") is a multilateral treaty specializing in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes. CMS has listed the North Atlantic right whale on Appendix I, which identifies it as a migratory species threatened with extinction.[142] This obligates member nations to strive towards strict protection of these animals, habitat conservation or restoration, mitigation of obstacles to migration, and control of other factors that might endanger them.

Additionally, CMS encourages concerted action among the range states of many Appendix I species.[143] To that end, a small portion of the eastern Atlantic population's range is covered by the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS).[144] The Atlantic area bounded on the west by a line running from Cape St. Vincent in southwest Portugal to Casablanca, Morocco, and on the east by the Straight of Gibraltar.

Another multilateral treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, (CITES, or the “Washington Convention”), also lists the North Atlantic right whale on its own Appendix I. Being so listed prohibits international trade (import or export) in specimens of this species or any derivative products (e.g. food or drug products, bones, trophies), except for scientific research and other exceptional cases with a permit specific to that specimen.[3]

Whale watching

Moira Brown - MWB 0195-NEA-S4
Curious whale lifting head, showing distinctive callosities to observers on boats

Either land based or organized whale watching activities are available along east coasts from Canada in north to Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida to south. Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary has also been designated for watching this species. Onlookers lucky enough can spot them from shores time to time on whales' migration seasons especially for feeding (vicinity to Cape Cod such as at Race Point and Brier Island), and breeding/calving (off Georgia to Florida coasts) when whales strongly approach shores or enters rivers or estuaries such as at Outer Banks, Pamlico Sound, Indian River Inlet, Cape Lookout, Virginia Beach, Virginia, Golden Isles of Georgia, beaches on Florida (e.g. most notably at Flagler, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, Satellite, Crescent, and Cocoa, and any others like Ormond, New Smyrna, South Melbourne, Wrightsville, Vero), Boynton, and so on. There are some piers used for lookout points such as at Jacksonville and Wrightsville.

With their low profile on the water, right whales can be difficult to spot, so all fishermen and boaters transiting through potential right whale habitat should keep a sharp lookout. Boaters should be advised that NOAA Fisheries has a "500-yard rule", prohibiting anyone from approaching within 500 yards (1,500 ft; 460 m) of a North Atlantic right whale.[145] The regulations include all boaters, fishing vessels (except commercial fishing vessel retrieving gear), kayakers, surfers, and paddleboarders,[146] and agencies such as the United States Coast Guard and the Massachusetts Environmental Police have been authorized to enforce it.[147]

Right whale sightings can be valuable to researchers, who recommend all sightings be reported either through the U.S. Coast Guard via channel 16, the WhaleAlert iPhone/iPad app,[148] or by calling 1-866-755-6622 (Maine to Virginia) or 1-877-WHALE-HELP (North Carolina to Florida).[149] In Florida, the Marine Resources Council maintains a volunteer sighting network to receive sighting information from the public and verify sightings with trained volunteers. Right whales can be reported toll-free at 1-888-97-WHALE (1-888-979-4253).[150]

Due to the species' status, as of 2014, there is no whale watching location in eastern and mid Atlantic, and oceanic islands feasible to observe right whales regularly. Among these, only off Iceland right whales have been encountered during watching tours (save for expeditions and land-based observations targeting for birds and other faunas), and several observations were made in Iceland during the 2000s.

See also

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External links

Balaenidae

Balaenidae is a family of whales of the parvorder Mysticeti that contains two living genera: the right whales (genus Eubalaena), and in a separate genus, the closely related bowhead whale (genus Balaena).

Baleen whale

Baleen whales (systematic name Mysticeti), known earlier as whalebone whales, form a parvorder of the infraorder Cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises). They are a widely distributed and diverse parvorder of carnivorous marine mammals. Mysticeti comprise the families Balaenidae (right and bowhead whales), Balaenopteridae (rorquals), Cetotheriidae (the pygmy right whale), and Eschrichtiidae (the gray whale). There are currently 15 species of baleen whales. While cetaceans were historically thought to have descended from mesonychids, (which would place them outside the order Artiodactyla), molecular evidence supports them as a clade of even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla). Baleen whales split from toothed whales (Odontoceti) around 34 million years ago.

Baleen whales range in size from the 20 ft (6 m) and 6,600 lb (3,000 kg) pygmy right whale to the 102 ft (31 m) and 190 t (210 short tons) blue whale the largest known animal to have ever existed. They are sexually dimorphic. Baleen whales can have streamlined or large bodies, depending on the feeding behavior, and two limbs that are modified into flippers. Though not as flexible and agile as seals, baleen whales can swim very fast, with the fastest able to travel at 23 miles per hour (37 km/h). Baleen whales use their baleen plates to filter out food from the water by either lunge-feeding or skim-feeding. Baleen whales have fused neck vertebrae, and are unable to turn their head at all. Baleen whales have two blowholes. Some species are well adapted for diving to great depths. They have a layer of fat, or blubber, under the skin to keep warm in the cold water.

Although baleen whales are widespread, most species prefer the colder waters of the Arctic and Antarctic. Gray whales are specialized for feeding on bottom-dwelling crustaceans. Rorquals are specialized at lunge-feeding, and have a streamlined body to reduce drag while accelerating. Right whales skim-feed, meaning they use their enlarged head to effectively take in a large amount of water and sieve the slow-moving prey. Males typically mate with more than one female (polygyny), although the degree of polygyny varies with the species. Male strategies for reproductive success vary between performing ritual displays (whale song) or lek mating. Calves are typically born in the winter and spring months and females bear all the responsibility for raising them. Mothers fast for a relatively long period of time over the period of migration, which varies between species. Baleen whales produce a number of vocalizations, notably the songs of the humpback whale.

The meat, blubber, baleen, and oil of baleen whales have traditionally been used by the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. Once relentlessly hunted by commercial industries for these products, cetaceans are now protected by international law. However, the North Atlantic right whale is ranked endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Besides hunting, baleen whales also face threats from marine pollution and ocean acidification. It has been speculated that man-made sonar results in strandings. They have rarely been kept in captivity, and this has only been attempted with juveniles or members of one of the smallest species.

Fauna of Florida

Florida is host to many types of fauna

Marine mammals: bottlenose dolphin, short-finned pilot whale, North Atlantic right whale, West Indian manatee

Mammals: Florida panther, northern river otter, mink, eastern cottontail rabbit, marsh rabbit, raccoon, striped skunk, squirrel, white-tailed deer, Key deer, bobcats, red fox, gray fox, coyote, wild boar, Florida black bear, nine-banded armadillos, Virginia opossum

Reptiles: eastern diamondback and pygmy rattlesnakes, gopher tortoise, green and leatherback sea turtles, and eastern indigo snake. In 2012, there were about one million American alligators and 1,500 crocodiles.

Birds: peregrine falcon, bald eagle, American flamingo, northern caracara, snail kite, osprey, white and brown pelicans, sea gulls, whooping and sandhill cranes, roseate spoonbill, American white ibis, Florida scrub jay (state endemic), and others. One subspecies of wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, namely subspecies osceola, is found only in Florida. The state is a wintering location for many species of eastern North American birds.

As a result of climate change, there have been small numbers of several new species normally native to cooler areas to the north: snowy owls, snow buntings, harlequin ducks, and razorbills. These have been seen in the northern part of the state.Invertebrates: carpenter ants, termites, American cockroach, Africanized bees, the Miami blue butterfly, and the grizzled mantis.

Florida also has more than 500 nonnative animal species and 1,000 nonnative insects found throughout the state. Some exotic species living in Florida include the Burmese python, green iguana, veiled chameleon, Argentine black and white tegu, peacock bass, mayan cichlid, lionfish, White-nosed coati, rhesus macaque, vervet monkey, Cuban tree frog, cane toad, Indian peafowl, monk parakeet, tui parakeet, and many more. Some of these nonnative species do not pose a threat to any native species, but some do threaten the native species of Florida by living in the state and eating them.The only known calving area for the northern right whale is off the coasts of Florida and Georgia.The native bear population has risen from a historic low of 300 in the 1970s, to 3,000 in 2011.Six of Red deer were released on Buck Island Breeding Ranch in Highlands County in 1967 or 1968. The herd increased to less than 30 animals. In 1993, 10 animals were seen in the area, and small numbers have been sighted subsequently in the same area.In Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, The plains bison were reintroduced to the park from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in 1975, as part of the park service goal of restoring Florida's natural resources to pre-European settler conditions; they roamed this area until the late 18th century. When bison sightings occur, they usually appear along the Cone's Dike trail. The herd was reduced from thirty-five to seven individuals in the mid-1980s after an outbreak of Brucellosis. In the late 1990s, the herd was again reduced after inbreeding concerns. The buffalo herd reached a peak of 70 animals in 2011. The park began culling excessive animals in 2012, allowing a target population of about 8 to 10 bison to be free to roam the Florida prairie.The American flamingo was also found in South Florida, which was likely the northernmost extent of its distribution.

The study also indicated that these flamingos may be increasing in population and reclaiming their lost land. Large flocks of flamingos are still known to visit Florida from time to time, most notably in 2014, when a very large flock of over 147 flamingos temporarily stayed at Stormwater Treatment Area 2, on Lake Okeechobee, with a few returning the following year.. From a distance, untrained eyes can also confuse it with the roseate spoonbill.Since their accidental importation from South America into North America in the 1930s, the red imported fire ant population has increased its territorial range to include most of the southern United States, including Florida. They are more aggressive than most native ant species and have a painful sting.A number of non-native snakes and lizards have been released in the wild. In 2010, the state created a hunting season for Burmese and Indian pythons, African rock pythons, green anacondas, yellow anacondas, common boas, and Nile monitor lizards. Green iguanas have also established a firm population in the southern part of the state. Due to a combination of events, the green iguana is considered an invasive species in South Florida and is found along the east coast as well as the Gulf Coast of Florida from Key West to Pinellas County.There are about 500,000 feral pigs in Florida.

KOBO (whale)

KOBO (King of the Blue Ocean) is the skeleton of a 66-foot-long (20 m) juvenile blue whale on display at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The whale was accidentally struck and killed by a tanker and brought ashore in Rhode Island in March 1998. It was named by New Bedford sixth-grade student Katie Hallett and put on display in 2000. It shares the gallery with three other whale skeletons: a 37-foot (11 m) male humpback, a 49-foot (15 m) female North Atlantic right whale who was pregnant at the time of her death, and the right whale's fetus.

Karen Ludwig

Karen Ludwig is a Canadian Liberal politician who was elected to represent the riding of New Brunswick Southwest in the House of Commons of Canada in the 2015 federal election. She was the first woman ever to win in the riding, traditionally seen as a Conservative stronghold.

Kvænangen (fjord)

Kvænangen (Norwegian), Návuotna (Northern Sami), or Naavuono (Kven) (sometimes anglicized as the Kvænang Fjord) is a fjord in Troms county, Norway. The fjord runs through Skjervøy Municipality and Kvænangen Municipality.

List of extinct animals of the Netherlands

This list of extinct animals of the Netherlands includes the animal species and subspecies once lived in the Netherlands but have disappeared since human habitation.

This list features the mammals, birds, fish, molluscs, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, pond damselflies, mayflies, grasshoppers and crickets that have disappeared from the Netherlands. There have been no known extinctions of reptiles or amphibians in the Netherlands.

Most animals on this list of extinct animals in the Netherlands survive in other places in the world. However, some of them are now globally extinct, like the great auk (Pinguinus impennis), the European wild horse (Equus ferus) and the aurochs (Bos primigenius primigenius). One skeleton of the great auk was excavated in a Roman settlement near Velsen. Bones were also found near Rotterdam. In the Netherlands there are no bone finds of the aurochs after the Roman period (400 AD). Maculinea alcon arenaria, an endemic Dutch subspecies of the Alcon blue butterfly became extinct at the end of the 1970s.

Fossilized remains of the gray whale (Eschrichtuis robustus), have been found dated to 340 BC, demonstrating that this species once roamed the North Sea, although it is no longer found there. A lower jaw of a lynx (Lynx lynx lynx) was found at the remains of a Roman settlement near Valkenburg in the Netherlands. During excavations of sites dated to the Roman period (around 400 AD) on the Rhine delta there were findings of important breeding sites of the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus). According to the hunting rights of the bishops of Utrecht we know that brown bears (Ursus arctos arctos) were still found in the Netherlands as late as the eleventh century. According to a hunting licence from Drenthe, elk (Alces alces alces) were also known to be in this country until 1025. The North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), which once appeared from the Bay of Biscay to Norway, have disappeared from the waters around the Netherlands. It is suspected that the last whales were killed at the end of the Middle Ages.

List of mammals of Norway

List of mammals with non-domesticated populations in Norway.

Moira Brown

Not to be confused with the character from the Fallout 3 video game, or the host of 100 Huntley Street.

Moira Brown is a Canadian North Atlantic right whale researcher. She is leading the initiative to convince the Government of Canada, shipping industry and scientists to address ship strikes and North Atlantic right whale mortality in the Bay of Fundy, Canada. Brown has conducted research on whales for more than 30 years.

Museum of the Earth

The Museum of the Earth is a natural history museum located in Ithaca, New York. The museum was opened in 2003 as part of the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI), an independent organization pursuing research and education in the history of the Earth and its life. Both PRI and the Museum of the Earth are formally affiliated with Cornell University. The Museum of the Earth is home to earth-science exhibits and science-related art displays with a focus on the concurrent evolution of the Earth and life.

Northern right whale

There are two species of northern right whale:

North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica)

North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)

Removal of Sunset Provision for vessel restrictions

As of December 6, 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have established a final rule in which eliminates sunset provision or the expiration date for regulations regarding vessels traveling in the Atlantic. To reduce fatal ship collisions, these required restrictions include speed limits of no more than 10-knots for vessels of 65 feet or greater in certain locations and at certain times of the year along the east coast of the U.S. Atlantic seaboard.

Right whale

Right whales or black whales are three species of large baleen whales of the genus Eubalaena: the North Atlantic right whale (E. glacialis), the North Pacific right whale (E. japonica) and the Southern right whale (E. australis). They are classified in the family Balaenidae with the bowhead whale. Right whales have rotund bodies with arching rostrums, V-shaped blowholes and dark gray or black skin. The most distinguishing feature of a right whale is the rough patches of skin on its head, which appear white due to parasitism by whale lice. Right whales can grow up to more than 18 m (59 ft) long with a highest-recorded length of 19.8 m (65 ft). They weigh 100 short tons (91 t; 89 long tons) or more, reaching 20.7 m (68 ft) with 135,000 kg (298,000 lb) or 21.3 m (70 ft) with uncertainty, significantly larger than other coastal species such as humpbacks, grays, or edens and omura's, but smaller than blues. One (apocryphal) explanation for their name is that whalers identified them as the "right" whale to kill on a hunt due to the plentiful oil and baleen they could provide.All three species are migratory, moving seasonally to feed or give birth. The warm equatorial waters form a barrier that isolates the northern and southern species from one another although at the southern species at least has been known to cross the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, right whales tend to avoid open waters and stay close to peninsulas and bays and on continental shelves, as these areas offer greater shelter and an abundance of their preferred foods. In the Southern Hemisphere, right whales feed far offshore in summer, but a large portion of the population occur in near-shore waters in winter. Right whales feed mainly on copepods but also consume krill and pteropods. They may forage the surface, underwater or even the ocean bottom. During courtship, males gather into large groups to compete for a single female, suggesting that sperm competition is an important factor in mating behavior. Although the blue whale is the largest animal on the planet, the testes of the right whale are actually ten times larger than those of the blue whale – with each weighing up to 525 kilograms (1,157 lb), they are by far the largest of any animal on Earth. Gestation tends to last a year, and calves are born at 1 short ton (0.91 t; 0.89 long tons) in weight and 4–6 m (13–20 ft) in length. Weaning occurs after eight months.

Right whales were a preferred target for whalers because of their docile nature, their slow surface-skimming feeding behaviors, their tendency to stay close to the coast, and their high blubber content (which makes them float when they are killed, and which produced high yields of whale oil). Today, the North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales are among the most endangered whales in the world, and both species are protected in the United States by the Endangered Species Act. The western populations of both are currently endangered, with their total populations numbering in the hundreds. The eastern North Pacific population, on the other hand, with fewer than 50 individuals remaining, is critically endangered – further still, the eastern North Atlantic population, which numbers in the low teens at best, may already be functionally extinct.Although the whales no longer face a threat from whaling, mankind remains by far the greatest threat to these species: the two leading causes of death are being struck by ships and entanglement in fishing gear. For the North Atlantic right whale, for example, whose population was estimated at 411 in 2018 which was down from 451 in 2016 and 458 in 2015, these two anthropogenic factors alone account for 48% of all known right whale deaths since 1970. More than 85% of right whales have been entangled at least once.In 2017, at least 118 right whales were in the Gulf of St Lawrence, or roughly a quarter of the local population, which previously fed in summer and fall months in the Bay of Fundy and Roadway basin. The habitat shift moved this population away from existing conservation efforts and into the path of busy shipping lanes and also snow crab fisheries where Fisheries and Oceans Canada doubled the quotas in 2017.

Vessel speed restrictions to reduce ship collisions with North Atlantic right whales

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established a rule in 2008 to implement vessel speed restrictions of 10 knots or less on ships 65 ft (20 m) or longer in various locations along the East Coast of the United States. The purpose of the regulations was to reduce the probability of deaths and injuries to endangered North Atlantic right whales due to collisions with ships. The rule was enacted December 9, 2008.

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