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North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena glacialis)

CRESLI Whale Watch

North Atlantic Right Whale #2681, seen near Montauk Point 8/23/2015
North Atlantic Right Whale #2681 a male born in 1996; seen near Montauk Point August 23, 2015

2 of 8 right whales sighted during a CRESLI  cruise on August 10, 2004 in the Great South Channel (about 90 miles SE of Boston)

2 of 8 right whales sighted during a CRESLI  cruise on August 10, 2004 in the Great South Channel (about 90 miles SE of Boston)

2 of 8 right whales sighted during a CRESLI  cruise on August 10, 2004 in the Great South Channel (about 90 miles SE of Boston)


Right whales were named so because they were the "right whale" to hunt. They were the right whale to hunt for a variety of reasons, including slow swimming speed(4 knots maximum) ; floating after death; significant amounts of very long and flexible baleen; and significant amounts of blubber that could be rendered down into oil. Right whales were "protected" from legal hunting in 1935, but have not been able to recover.

Studies of biopsied North Atlantic right whales indicate very little genetic variability within the population. This is assumed to be due to significant inbreeding, following the reduction of the population (population bottleneck) due to whaling. Reduced reproductive success due to inbreeding, coupled with the low reproductive rate of mysticetes in general, might partly explain the lack of recovery of Eubalaena glacialis.  Recent analyses indicate that the population bottleneck might pre-date whaling (Rastogi, et al, 2004).

Right whales feed almost exclusively on small crustaceans called calanoid copepods, and hence have a very limited food niche. Right whales calve in winter off the coast of Georgia and Florida, and can sometimes be seen in the waters of f New York during their migration to and from their typical feeding grounds (the Great South Channel, the Gulf of Maine, the Scotian shelf). Sometimes right whales can be seen in NY's waters in the summer as well.

Kraus, et al (2005) state: "Despite international protection from commercial whaling since 1935, the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) remains one of the most endangered whales in the world"

The North Atlantic  right whale is endangered throughout its range with an estimated population size of 465 individuals. The IUCN Red List  category "endangered" means that the species or population is "facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future." 

Information about the IUCN Red List categories and criteria.

PDF copy of the categories and criteria


The following papers can shed some light on the status of North Atlantic Right Whales:

NOAA Fisheries 2014 Stock Assesment Report for NORTH ATLANTIC RIGHT WHALE (Eubalaena glacialis): Western Atlantic Stock

Meyer-Gutbrod, E. L., Greene, C. H., Sullivan, P. J., & Pershing, A. J. (2015). Climate-associated changes in prey availability drive reproductive dynamics of the North Atlantic right whale population. MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES, 535, 243-258.

Meyer-Gutbrod, E. L., & Greene, C. H. (2014). Climate-Associated Regime Shifts Drive Decadal-Scale Variability in Recovery of North Atlantic Right Whale Population. Oceanography, 27(3), 148-153.

Monsarrat, S., Pennino, M. G., Smith, T. D., Reeves, R. R., Meynard, C. N., Kaplan, D. M., & Rodrigues, A. S. (2015). A spatially explicit estimate of the pre‐whaling abundance of the endangered North Atlantic right whale.Conservation Biology.

Mussoline, S. E., Risch, D., Hatch, L. T., Weinrich, M. T., Wiley, D. N., Thompson, M. A., ... & Van Parijs, S. M. (2012). Seasonal and diel variation in North Atlantic right whale up-calls: implications for management and conservation in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Endangered Species Research, 17(1), 17-26.

Whitt, A. D., Dudzinski, K., & Laliberté, J. R. (2013). North Atlantic right whale distribution and seasonal occurrence in nearshore waters off New Jersey, USA, and implications for management. Endangered Species Research, 20(1), 59-69.

Brillant, S. W., Vanderlaan, A. S., Rangeley, R. W., & Taggart, C. T. (2015). Quantitative estimates of the movement and distribution of North Atlantic right whales along the northeast coast of North America. Endangered Species Research, 27, 141-154.

 

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