Do Right by Right Whales

by Khadijah Rahim

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered whale species. Having been hunted since as early as the 9th century, and facing near extinction in the 1900s, these animals are quickly fading from the planet. With less than 400 of these whales left, extinction is very near. 


The North Atlantic right whale is most noticeable by its thick black skin and white calluses on its head. Each whale has its own unique pattern of callosities which make them identifiable. Their sleek black bodies have no dorsal fin, a V-shaped blow spout, and a broad, deep noticed tail. 


Babies are born at around 14 feet and stretch to 52 feet weighing in at 70 tons. Right whales move together, feeding and traveling in groups at the surface. Daily, they consume roughly 2,500 pounds of zooplankton (small animals and young invertebrate creatures). Right whales are known to socialize with each other in groups at the water’s surface and mate in these groups. They have a well-developed form of communication, using low-frequency sounds to single threats, aggression, or gain an understanding of their proximity to each other. 


The North Atlantic right whales primarily live in Atlantic coastal waters though they are known to travel into deeper waters. Typically they migrate in groups during the spring, summer, and fall, mating during these seasons as well. They have two critical habitat areas recognized by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. The first being the New England area, and the second being the southeast United States coast. These areas are known as vital to foraging and calving areas. 


So what’s taking these beautiful creatures away from Earth? Climate change, specifically, changes to the oceans is the leading cause of the right whale’s decline. Within the past decade, right whales have changed their distribution patterns due to changes in prey location and warmer oceanic temperatures. Due to the struggle to find food, many females have gone from reproducing every 3-5 years to now every 6-10 years. Aside from this, vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear pose a huge threat to the lives of these creatures. Due to the overlapping of the right whale’s migration paths with shipping lanes, the right whales are extremely vulnerable to collisions. These collisions can break bones, lead to internal injuries, and even lead to the immediate death of a right whale. Scientists believe frequent entanglement in fishing gear can injure whales, especially female whales, leading to longer reproduction times. 


So how can you help? Take Instant Action in 3 simple steps! Be mindful of the critical habitat areas and help preserve them! Reduce your plastic waste to keep our ocean clean – opt for a reusable water bottle  instead of a disposable plastic bottle! Most importantly, use your voice to continue to inform others and save these stunning creatures.