Scientists aboard a research vessel were able to track down the incredibly rare North Pacific right whale recently, a species with just a few hundred individuals left.
As we reported recently, a research vessel sailing in the Bering Sea was able to track down a couple of critically endangered North Pacific right whales. This species is so incredibly rare that sometimes scientists won’t see them for years, and in this case, researchers had to listen to their faint calls and track them for more than four hours before finding them. And the truth about these species and just how endangered they are is pretty amazing.
Researchers on the vessel, the Yushin Maru 2, were able to photograph two North Pacific right whales and even obtain a biopsy sample. That’s important because scientists are desperately trying to learn more about this species in order to save them from extinction.
Before commercial whaling in the North Pacific in the early 1800s, populations of this species were probably more than 20,000, but intense whaling in the years since have dwindled their numbers to just 30-35 whales in the eastern North Pacific and a little more than 300 in the western part of its range. It’s by far the smallest known population of any whale species.
“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.”