North Atlantic right whale deaths puzzle scientists

alibhai/ July 31, 2017/ New Gadgets/ 0 comments

  • In two months, there have been nine deaths among North Atlantic right whales
  • These all took place in Canada’s Gulf of St Lawrence, authorities have said
  • Right whales are among the most endangered large whales, with only 500 left 

North American conservationists are scrambling to find out why North Atlantic right whales are dying in unprecedented numbers, with nine deaths in Canada‘s Gulf of St. Lawrence in two months, according to Canadian authorities.

The nine deaths make 2017 the deadliest year for the endangered marine mammal since scientists began tracking their numbers in the 1980s, said Kim Davies, a Dalhousie University post-doctoral fellow who is pioneering a way to track their activity in real time.

There are only about 500 North Atlantic right whales left in the world.

North American conservationists are scrambling to find out why North Atlantic right whales are dying in unprecedented numbers, with nine deaths in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence in two months, according to Canadian authorities. A right whale is pictured 

North American conservationists are scrambling to find out why North Atlantic right whales are dying in unprecedented numbers, with nine deaths in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence in two months, according to Canadian authorities. A right whale is pictured 

THE NORTH ATLANTIC RIGHT WHALE 

North Atlantic right whales are characterized by a ‘stocky’ black body and the lack of a dorsal fin, along with raised patches known as callosities.

These can be found on their head, and often appear white because of ‘whale lice,’ according to NOAA.

They can live more than 70 years, and weigh roughly 158,000lbs.

Adults can grow to about 50 feet, while calves are born at a massive 14ft.

These whales feed by opening their mouths and swimming through patches of zooplankton.

Human activity has caused at least some of this summer’s deaths.

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered of all large whale species, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

These massive marine mammals can weigh over 150,000 lbs, and rely on nursery areas in shallow, coastal waters.

Their habitat, however, leaves them at risk of potentially deadly encounters with humans on top of natural threats from large predators.

Ship collisions, entanglement in fishing gear, habitat degradation, contaminants, and even disturbance from whale-watching activities pose a threat to the North Atlantic right whale, according to NOAA.

Three of the whales this summer died from blunt force trauma consistent with being struck by a large vessel, while another was killed after becoming entangled in fishing gear, Tonya Wimmer, director of the Marine Animal Response Society, said on Monday.

The carcasses of the whales are so large, Wimmer and her colleagues need a backhoe to get inside the animals to perform necropsies.

The whales, designated a species at risk, have been sighted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in higher-than-normal numbers this summer. A stock image is pictured 

The whales, designated a species at risk, have been sighted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in higher-than-normal numbers this summer. A stock image is pictured 

These massive marine mammals can weigh over 150,000 lbs, and rely on nursery areas in shallow, coastal waters. Their habitat, however, leaves them at risk of potentially deadly encounters with humans on top of natural threats from large predators

These massive marine mammals can weigh over 150,000 lbs, and rely on nursery areas in shallow, coastal waters. Their habitat, however, leaves them at risk of potentially deadly encounters with humans on top of natural threats from large predators

The whales, designated a species at risk, have been sighted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in higher-than-normal numbers this summer, Davies said, possibly because their zooplankton food source is scarcer in other habitats such as the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy.

Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans closed some snow crab fisheries early in response to the deaths, and has asked ships in the high-traffic Gulf of St. Lawrence to voluntarily keep their speed to 10 knots or less.

But longer-term solutions such as rules around vessel speed, routes and gear are needed to prevent more deaths like these, Wimmer said.

‘This is unprecedented. And it’s catastrophic. … For the sake of the species, it needs to stop.’ 

 






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

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