Scientists believe there are only a few hundred North Pacific right whales left, and they spotted a pair of them in the Bering Sea recently.
As we noted in a recent report, scientists in the Bering Sea made the astonishing discovery of not one but two North Pacific right whales, a creature so rare that researchers often go years without seeing them. And the story behind this fascinating animal shows just what a major battle is ahead for saving this incredible but very endangered species.
It was aboard the research vessel Yushin Maru 2 that scientists heard the very faint calls of the right whales, sending them on a chase that would take more than four hours but would lead to not just photographs of the right whales, but also a biopsy sample, a vital achievement for scientists hoping to understand more about this species and how it can be saved.
North Pacific right whales were once plentiful, with an estimated 20,000 in the early 1800s, but whales caused their numbers to dwindle to just a few hundred today, and only 30-35 individuals in the eastern Pacific, scientists believe.
“With as few as 400 remaining, NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to the conservation and recovery of North Atlantic right whales,” NOAA says on its website. “Right whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Their two greatest threats are entanglement in fixed fishing gear and vessel strikes.
“Each fall, right whales travel more than 1,000 miles from their feeding grounds off Canada and New England to the warm coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida. These southern waters are the only known calving area for the species; an area where they give birth and nurse their young.”