The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered large whales on the planet. Twenty-eight whales have been killed between 2017-2019: That’s 7 per cent of their entire population. Scientists estimate that even a single human-caused North Atlantic right whale death a year threatens the species’ chances of recovery.
Whaling decimated North Atlantic right whales and nearly wiped them out forever before it was banned in 1935. They were named for being the “right” whale to hunt because they were often found near shore, swim slowly and tend to float when killed.
Now the North Atlantic right whale is again on the brink of extinction, mostly due to threats from commercial shipping and fishing. At normal operating speeds, ships cannot maneuver to avoid them, putting the whales at great risk of strikes, which can cause deadly injuries from blunt force trauma or cuts from the propellers. Additionally, a jungle of roughly one million fishing lines sprawls across the whales’ migration routes and feeding areas in Canada and the United States. These ropes have been seen wrapped around North Atlantic right whales’ mouths, fins, tails and bodies, and cut into the whales’ flesh, which can lead to life-threatening infections. Emerging threats like seismic airgun blasting, a process used to search for oil and gas deep below the seafloor, put the species at even greater risk.
Today, only about 400 North Atlantic right whales remain, including fewer than 100 breeding females. To prevent extinction, these whales must be protected from fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes. Oceana’s campaign will work to do this by reducing the amount of vertical fishing lines in the water and requiring ships to slow down. You can help by purchasing an ocean ring too help save these whales.