Birth of nine calves ignites hope for endangered North Atlantic right whale

Scientists studying the endangered North Atlantic right whale are cautiously optimistic about the current breeding season that follows. Nine Calves were found in the first few weeks.

Moira Brown, a senior scientist at the Canadian Cetacean Institute, said fewer than 100. of The 340 surviving animals in waters along the eastern coast of Canada are mothers.

“Every calf is precious,” she said. “A little bit of hope for the future. The last 10-12 years have been pretty tough for right whales. “

The North Atlantic right whale calving season begins in mid-November and lasts until mid-April.

distance between one birth The other is typically 3 to 5 years, but recently scientists have confirmed that that period has increased to 7 to 10 years, Brown said.

Boris Wurm, a marine conservation expert at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said: of Calves have changed over the years.

5 calves were born in 2017, 0 in 2018, 7 in 2019, 10 in 2020, 20 in 2021 and 15 calves last year.These are far below average of 24 were reported in the early 2000s, he added.

“Because it’s not the end of Birth season, we are kind of On the way, we already have NineSo we hope to see more calves and hopefully 20 or more calves,” he said.

“We’ve never seen anything like that in person, so that’s certainly very good news. of Numbers for the last 10 years. “

Brown made another point of Recent seasonal concerns were lacking of First-time mothers to support studies showing declining numbers of capable woman of breeding.

Wurm said right whales in the North Atlantic have to deal with several pressures, including ship collisions, entanglement from fishing gear, and warming waters due to climate change that pose food-related challenges.

“fertility of Whales correlate with population changes of their food and distribution. And their food sources have collapsed since 2000,” he said.

“The idea is that it might be richness, quality, focus. of The food isn’t that good, so the mother isn’t fertile.You can’t have as many babies as you did in the 2000s. “

But this season’s births suggest that mothers had such of The food you need to maintain your pregnancy, he said.

Right whales eat zooplankton lower down the food chain. of Tiny crustaceans feed on phytoplankton, the algae that turn the ocean green.But whales need high concentrations to have a nutritious diet, he said. of This food that may not always be available.

that happened Nine Babies so far this season show they have enough food, which is a good sign, Worm said.

Around 2010, Brown said, scientists noticed a change in the habitat of right whales from around the Gulf of Mexico. of Maine including the Gulf of fundy and south of From Nova Scotia to the Gulf Coast of St Lawrence.

“I give a lot to right whales of Credit,” she said. “They found food elsewhere, which is a good thing.”

Worms guessed “very low” birth The 2010-2018 population occurred when the whales were migrating through their habitat.

“They were just looking for a new supermarket,” he said with a laugh.

Now that several calves have been born, Wurm said he worries about the unsafe environment the calves have to move.

Collision of ships and entanglement of fishing gear were the main causes. of From 2017 to 2022, there were deaths and serious injuries to right whales, and the worms said they posed the most immediate risk to their newborn babies.

“The calves are very naive. They have not yet learned that it is a dangerous place for them,” he said.

Right whales are slow-moving and cannot be easily maneuvered by oncoming boats or ships, he said.

“They are like slow-moving targets. Think of toddlers and children walking down the highway. of Those calves migrate northwest, crossing many very busy shipping lanes to New York City, Boston, Halifax and the Gulf Coast. of St Lawrence.Each person is really important for survival of seed. “

canadian press