It’s Baby Season For These Whales — But No Babies Have Been Born
“This is the worst-case scenario.”
Every winter, North Atlantic right whales travel south to warmer waters off the coasts of Florida and Georgia to give birth to their babies — but this year, not one whale has been born. This has never happened before — and it could mean catastrophe for the species.
“This is the worst-case scenario," Barb Zoodsma, a biologist with the right whale recovery program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told the Boston Globe. "This season appears to be a total bomb."
It's estimated that there are just about 430 of these whales left in the world — and just about 100 potential mothers. Last year, just five calves were born, a new low for the breeding season.
And early deaths of these whales were up in 2017 — 18 died young, and already in 2018 a 10-year-old female was found dead on the coast of Virginia. She was of breeding age, and died because she got entangled in fishing equipment.
Most premature deaths are caused this way — an estimated 82 percent — when the whales become entangled in lobster fishing lines. When they can't get free, they starve. And if something isn't done soon, this kind of whale could be extinct by 2040.
But there is hope. In the past, regulations put in place to keep marine animals safe from ship collisions and preserve habitats have made a real difference in their survival.
“Right whales could disappear forever if they keep getting tangled up and killed in fishing gear,” Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a release announcing a lawsuit seeking stricter regulations on the fishing gear that's killing these animals. “Federal officials have to act now, before it’s too late.”