Tag Archives: North Atlantic Right Whale

Act Right Now – Save a Species

The NBWM will host a press conference on Sunday, at noon, in our Cook Memorial Theater to bring attention to an important policy issue affecting the North Atlantic right whale. Please see the text of the media advisory below. The NBWM is happy to be part of this partnership to protect a critically endangered species of whale.

RW skimfeed From RA-SN. Atl. right whale feeding. Photo courtesy of Regina Asmutis-Silvia, WDC.


Contact: Karen Costa (WDC) karen.costa@whales.org

Cell phone: (617) 501-7892 (current & event day)

ACT RIGHT NOW – Save a Species: North Atlantic Right Whale

News Media are Invited to Cover


Who:    Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies


What:   Campaign launch, expert panel discussion, and video premier – Countdown to Extinction: One Year to Act to Save Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.  The New Bedford Whaling Museum and Whale and Dolphin Conservation are hosting an open forum to discuss the plight of the North Atlantic right whale.  Join leading scientists and advocates in discussing the threats facing North Atlantic right whales. In addition to an expert panel discussion, curriculum guides for teachers will be available.


When:   Sunday December 9, 2012

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.


Where:  New Bedford Whaling Museum, 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA 02740

Why:     Leading right whale scientists and advocates come together to mark the one year countdown to the expiration of the Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule and to ask the federal government to keep the rule in place, giving critically endangered North Atlantic right whales a chance to survive. The biggest threat to these animals was – and still is – man. Right whale populations were depleted to near extinction by whaling. With approximately 50 individuals remaining, the North Atlantic right whale is on the brink of extinction with vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglements and a lack of adequate habitat protection continuing to threaten their existence. Currently, seventy-two percent of their known mortality is attributed to human causes. Public support to keep the ten knot speed rule in place is needed.

Experts participating and available for interviews include:

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Vessel Strike Program Lead & Executive Director, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC)

Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo, Director of Right Whale Program, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS)

Dr. Michael Moore,Senior Research Specialist Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)

Robert Rocha, Science Director, New Bedford Whaling Museum (NBWM)

Sharon Young, Marine Issues Field Director, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

In 2008 the Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule was enacted requiring vessels greater than 20m (65 feet) in length to slow to 10 knots in specific areas seasonally.  In an unprecedented measure, the National Marine Fisheries Service released the rule with a sunset date and the rule is set to expire on December 9th, 2013. This coming year WDC will lead the way with the Act Right Now campaign to gain public support for stronger and more permanent regulations to ensure that right whales have the best chance to survive the threats they face.  WDC, working in partnership with others, will work to extend and expand protections for North Atlantic right whales to prevent them from going extinct.  Find out what actions members of the public can take to ensure the survival of this fragile species at http://www.whales.org.

Celebrating the North Atlantic Right Whale

The New Bedford Whaling Museum examines the plight of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale and also celebrates this magnificent animal in a free public program that features a movie excerpt and a talk by Peter C. Stone on AHA Night, October 11 at 6:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater.


The program begins with a 20-minute excerpt of the film, “Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship,” featuring historic collaborative efforts to protect right whales in Massachusetts Bay.

In 2009, armed with more than 25 years of scientific data, a coalition of industry, regulatory and research representatives moved the shipping lane in Boston Harbor. This decreased the chance of ship strike on whales by 81%.

This Green Fire Productions film includes video footage, interviews, and state-of-the-art graphics – highlighting the work of individuals who are helping us better understand the right whale and the need to minimize manmade negative impacts on its chances for survival.

Following the film, an illustrated talk by author, educator and artist, Peter C. Stone, explores the evolutionary wisdom and interconnectedness of endangered creatures in a presentation titled “Waltzes with Giants: The Twilight Journey of the North Atlantic Right Whale.” His new book of the same title will be available at no cost to attendees while supplies last. The artist will be available to sign copies of his book after the talk in the Jacobs Family Gallery.

Mystical and provocative, “Waltzes” is inspired by a real North Atlantic right whale and her increasingly perilous migrations from Atlantic Canada to her calving grounds off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. In the spirit of marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson’s sea trilogy, the story evokes the wonder, the sorrow, and the conflicts associated with this member of the suborder Mysticetes (baleen whales). Blending science and art with a literary voice, Stone takes us beneath the waves to reveal how we have historically decimated many species of whales and other fisheries for material gain, even though they are an integral part of the ecosystems upon which we depend.

Many of the North Atlantic right whales that have spent their summer in Canadian and northern New England waters migrate south through the Gulf of Maine and around Cape Cod, to follow the Atlantic coast towards the waters of Georgia and Florida. Others will explore outer regions of the North Atlantic, some venturing farther than others.  Most, if not all, will travel within 50 miles of the coast and all of the human-created hazards that such a trip entails. Nearly 75% of these animals bear scars of entanglement or ship strike.

The good news for this highly endangered species is that there are dedicated individuals paying attention to their movements. Dozens of researchers follow the whales using both simple and high-tech equipment, generating a clearer picture of their habits. In so doing we learn how to help these animals. Sometimes this means knowing how to avoid them. Artists and writers like Peter Stone also absorb the science and are inspired to create moving ways to communicate the challenges these creatures cannot overcome without wide-reaching human intervention.

Museum galleries are open on AHA at a discount – buy one admission, get one free.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world’s most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of whales, whaling and the cultural history of the region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city’s historic downtown. For events: www.whalingmuseum.org.

Right Whales vs Navy Training

Skeleton of North Atlantic right whale fetus, hanging below her mother, in NBWM Jacobs Family Gallery. NBWM photo, taken by Museum apprentices, 2010.

In 2009 the Navy announced plans to construct a 500 square mile warfare training ground for submarines, near the coast of southern Georgia and northern Florida. Normally, this might not be a controversially newsworthy item, since the Navy is charged with protecting our shores. However, the proposed training ground is adjacent to the only known calving grounds of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), or NARW.  Estimates for this species’ population go no higher than 475 animals. Thus, every birth is critical for rebuilding the numbers if they are to avoid extinction.

In 2010, several environmental groups, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, sued to stop the project, claiming it was too close to the calving ground and that the activities in the training range would endanger the lives of these animals. Their concerns for moms and newborns mirror the issues facing all right whales – ship strike, entanglement and noise disturbance.  NARWs typically spend their lives within 50 miles of the shore.

Earlier this week a U.S. District Court judge rejected the lawsuit, thus enabling the Navy to continue with its plans to construct their training range. This Associated Press story is one of many that explain the ruling.  SELC and their partners will review the judge’s decision before deciding on their next step.

If this project does happen, it will be very closely monitored by those seeking to protect the North Atlantic right whale, by other environmental groups and by our military.

Fun Right Whale Day

Kids visit the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance craft tables during Right Whale Day 2012.

The families arrived early and came in a steady stream between 10a – 2p yesterday for Right Whale Day.  They worked their way through the right whale obstacle course created by our High School Apprentices; created origami and whale tale necklaces with New England Coastal Wildlife staff and tried on the blubber glove to test the insulating capacity of whale blubber. They were greeted by Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society staff as they entered WDCS’s 48ft inflatable right whale and learned important right whale information from NOAA education staff.  Many stayed for some tasty cake topped with a frosted right whale. We wrapped up the day with a 2pm viewing of Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship, a new documentary that highlights four innovative collaborations that have led to increased protection of our ocean resources.

We thank NECWA, WDCS, NOAA, our high school apprentices and WM docents and Facilities staff for their help in making yesterday’s festivities a success.

Young visitors try to 'swim' through the propeller strike obstacle safely.

“Whale Alert” app Available to Mariners

Whale Alert screen view. Image provided by NOAA.

One of the hottest whale-related stories on the internet involves a new iPad and iPhone app that has been created to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.  NOAA has teamed up with a variety of partners to develop an application, available for free, that provides near real-time information about the location of NARWs within the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the shipping lanes of Boston. The application also provides information on conservation measures in the areas that the ships are transiting.

This a clever, well-thought method to protect a species with a population number hovering between 450-500 individuals. It makes excellent use of new technology and research to provide all necessary information to those who ply our coastal waters to make their living, it assists sanctuary managers in knowing the movements of whales within the sanctuary, and it does so at no cost to mariners.

The other hot story involves a potential substitute for the ambrein that is removed from ambergris. Ambrein is a prized compound for use in perfumes. That will be tomorrow’s blog.

New Film Added to Right Whale Celebration Day

Hot on the heels of its premiere last night at the New England Aquarium, the new movie Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship, will be hosted by the New Bedford Whaling Museum in the Cook Memorial Theater on Monday afternoon, April 16, 2:00pm, as a fitting finale to a day of free activities focused on the North Atlantic Right Whale.  This film features four success stories of collaboration among seemingly disparate partners to protect our ocean resources.

Of the most interest to us here in Massachusetts, was the multi-year effort to get the shipping lanes in Boston Harbor shifted to lessen by 81% the likelihood that right whales would get hit by ships.  Led by Dr. David Wiley of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, researchers, shippers, regulators and conservation organizations pulled together to protect this critically endangered species.  Staff from the SBNMS will be here as Right Whale Day participants, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the designation of the Sanctuary.  They will introduce the film at 2:00.

To borrow directly from the press release “From the troubled waters now rises a new wave of hope, of prosperity through preservation, playing out in communities across the country and intimately captured in the new film by Green Fire Productions, OCEAN FRONTIERS.” This 80 minute film is free to the general public.

For more information about the film or about Right Whale Day call Science Director Robert Rocha at (508) 717-6849 or email rrocha@whalingmuseum.org


Whale Scoliosis

What was originally thought to be a horrific injury from a ship strike may very well be a case of scoliosis for a humpback whale off the Hawaiian island of Kauai. A KITV news story two days after the original took the sting off of the images of this unfortunate whale, several of which can be seen in the KITV article.

Reyna, The North Atlantic Right Whale skeleton that hangs in the Museum’s Jacobs Family Gallery, also suffered from a bit of scoliosis. It can seen in the upper part of her thoracic spine, within vertebrae 13 – 16.  This doesn’t seem to have had any negative impact on her daily life before she was tragically killed by an accidental ship strike in November 2004.

North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) in the Jacobs Family Gallery. NBWM teen apprentice photo, 2010.


Scientists Successfully Use Sedation to Help Disentangle North Atlantic Right Whale

January 15th a very special day for NOAA scientists and its state and nonprofit partners, and for the the young female North Atlantic Right whale who was disentangled from ropes and wire mesh fishing gear. Read the full news report on NOAA’s website , it begins:

Scientists from NOAA Fisheries Service and its state and nonprofit partners successfully used at-sea chemical sedation to help cut the remaining ropes from a young North Atlantic right whale on January 15 off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla. The sedative given to the whale allowed the disentanglement team to safely approach the animal and remove 50 feet of rope which was wrapped through its mouth and around its flippers.

The sedative given to the whale allowed the disentanglement team to safely approach the animal. (Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

This is only the second time a free-swimming whale has been successfully sedated to enable disentanglement efforts. The first time a whale was successfully sedated and disentangled was in March 2009 off the coast of Florida.

“Our recent progress with chemical sedation is important because it’s less stressful for the animal, and minimizes the amount of time spent working on these animals while maximizing the effectiveness of disentanglement operations,” said Jamison Smith, Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Coordinator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “This disentanglement was especially complex, but proved successful due to the detailed planning and collective expertise of the many response partners involved.”