Endangered Right Whales Found In North Atlantic Waters Where They Were Thought Extinct

right whale photo

photo: NOAA

Every once in a while there's some good news on the endangered species front: A team of scientists from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has discovered an undetermined number of North Atlantic right whales, in an area where it was thought they had been hunted nearly extinction over a hundred years ago:The whales were discovered by using a series of underwater hydrophones to record the sound of the whales over hundreds of miles of ocean. Over a six month period in 2007 the scientists recorded more than 2,000 right whale vocalizations.

At Least Three Individual Whales Found, Maybe More
The scientists don't know for certain how many individual right whales they recorded, but say that because at times they recorded right whales on the same day from widely spaced sites, the absolute minimum it is three. Which may not seem like a lot, but considering that the entire population is thought to number between 300 to 400 whales, even three more is worth noting.

The area where the whales were discovered is known as Cape Farewell Ground, off the southern tip of Greenland, which was an important whaling area in the 19th century. In the past 50 years only two right whales have been sighted in the region.

Whales Would be in the Middle of Northwest Passage Shipping Lanes
The wrinkle in all this is that the area where the whales were discovered is smack in the middle of shipping lanes that could very well become viable as global climate change opens up the Northwest Passage.

Phillip Clapham, a right whale expert at NOAA who participated in the study:

Newly available shipping lanes through the Northwest Passage would greatly shorten the trip between Europe and East Asia, but would likely cross the migratory route of any right whales that occupy the region.It's vital that we know about right whales in this area in order to effectively avoid ship strikes on what could be a quite fragile population.

More: Science Codex, and NOAA
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