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Endangered Right Whale Killed
January 9, 2007

On December 30, an aerial survey team in waters off of Brunswick, Georgia discovered a floating two-year old male right whale that had been killed by a ship strike. 2006 proved to be an exceptionally bad year for what might be the world’s most endangered large whale as six of these giant creatures that migrate up and down the East Coast were found dead. Five of the deaths were the direct result of human caused interactions including four deaths due to ship strikes and one from a fishing gear entanglement.

With less than 400 North Atlantic right whales on the planet, scientific studies have shown that the precarious population cannot withstand this level of human caused mortality. The National Marine Fisheries Service has been in the process of proposed rulemaking to better protect right whales from both shipping and fishing impacts for several years.

Among the proposed rules is a requirement to reduce ship speeds when within 30 miles of port entrances along the eastern seaboard on a seasonal basis when right whales are typically in the area. There are other proposals to reroute shipping lanes around areas where right whales aggregate to feed. This type of measure was implemented successfully in 2004 in Canada’s Bay of Fundy, which is the principal late summer feeding ground for many right whales. A similar proposal is in the works to move the shipping lanes going into Boston, which has America’s only whale feeding marine sanctuary, just 25 miles east of its port.

“We know how to reduce human caused right whale deaths through common sense measures that are not onerous to industry. Now we need to implement these solutions in a timely fashion. The urgency of the situation is obvious. The extinction time clock on North Atlantic right whales might be rapidly winding down,” stated Tony LaCasse, the spokesperson for the New England Aquarium.

New England Aquarium scientists have been conducting field research on right whales for over 25 years.

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