By Jason Shearer
One of the most endangered whale species is the North Atlantic Right Whale. They live to about 75 years, but most will not reach close to that age, this is due to exposure to dangerous chemicals or liquids like oil, and not being able to migrate to warmer waters quick enough. Only
about 100 live in the North Pacific, and another 8,000 live in the Southern Ocean.“Right” whales are so named because the animal is the perfect kind of whale for whalers to catch, as they stay afloat even when killed. They have been hunted for centuries and are close to extinction. Most right whale deaths are due to hunting by humans.
The whales have a significantly low birthrate, with an average of 17 births per year in the past 30 years. Since 2012, the amount of births per year have been counted as below-average. Luke Coard, a student at Glenelg High School suggests,“the whales should be put in reserves so they could reproduce and live longer.” In 2016 the population was estimated to be a mere 450, since there are so few of them left, there have been observation of breeding between multiple species of whales. Which has resulted in there being multiple gene pools. Andrew DeWoody, a professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Department of Biological Science, stated that, "Maybe they'll become one single gene pool in the future." There has been signs of low levels of genetic variation, due to low reproductive rates, and most likely inbreeding.
The right whales were almost hunted to extinction in the late 1800s, hunting right whales was banned in all oceans in 1935, by the League of Nations. John Jones, a Glenelg High School student said, “I think by 2028, all the right whales will be gone.”The whales continue to face threats around the coasts of Canada and the U.S. At any point in time each year, a portion of the population ends up missing. The species suffered greatly in 2017, with only about 450 whales remaining. “Following a year of such high mortality, it’s clear the population can’t sustain that trajectory,” said Philip Hamilton, a scientist at the Boston New England Aquarium. The whales are even dying at young ages, there are females dying at 30 years of age, which is less than half their expected lifespan.
The North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered species of whale and barely more than 8,000 are still alive. Since their deaths are mostly done by humans, and have been hunted for centuries, there are very few left. Laws have been passed to stop hunting of the species to ensure their survival. The birth rates are significantly low due to the whales not actively reproducing. Their lifespans are being shortened because they can’t migrate quick enough, and with time, this species will go extinct.