Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

North Atlantic right whales headed toward extinction unless quick action is taken

27.07.2005


One of the world’s most endangered whales, the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), is on a path toward extinction due to collisions with ships and entanglements in fishing gear, according to Cornell University whale expert Christopher Clark.



A paper co-authored by Clark in the latest issue of the journal Science (July 22, 2005) urges emergency measures, such as reducing boat speeds, rerouting shipping lanes around the whales’ migratory paths and modifying fishing techniques and gear.

Estimates indicate only 350 North Atlantic right whales remain, and deaths are exceeding births by less than 1 percent per year. "We are not just at a precipice to extinction, in many ways we are actually over that precipice," said Clark, the I.P. Johnson Director of the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell.


North Atlantic right whales mostly live in heavily trafficked and fished coastal waters off the North American eastern seaboard, from Florida to Canada. "There is really no place along the east coast of the United States free of humans, and shipping creates a lot of opportunities for whales to get hit," said Clark. "Swimming between ships and lobster pot lines, whales are constantly facing the gauntlets of traffic and snares. It’s hard for a big animal like that to get through."

One thousand years of whaling brought the species close to extinction until the early 1900s when hunting bans were introduced. Nobody knows why the whales failed to rebound prior to the 1960s when shipping and fishing increased. Now, human influences have brought further declines in the whale’s population.

In the last 16 months, scientists have recorded eight North Atlantic right whale deaths. Ships killed three, and one died after being tangled in fishing gear. Causes for the other deaths are unknown. Six of the dead whales were adult females. Four of these whales were just entering calf-bearing years, while three of them were actually carrying fetuses. Since females, on average, produce 5.25 calves in a lifetime, the researchers calculate that deaths of these females could represent a lost reproductive potential of as many as 21 animals.

Since 1986, 19 out of 50 reported dead right whales were killed by collisions with vessels, and at least six confirmed deaths were from fishing gear entanglements. There were also 61 confirmed cases of entangled whales dragging fishing gear, including the six confirmed entanglement deaths. Whales that become entangled over long periods of time lose weight and sink when they die; dead whales normally float. For this reason, there may be many more unreported deaths associated with fishing gear. Over the last 20 years, only 17 percent of deaths have been detected, the paper reports. If that detection rate has stayed constant, the authors suggest, then close to 47 right whales could have died in the last 16 months.

The Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are promoting emergency measures that include reducing ship speeds and rerouting commercial and military traffic, Clark said.

"There is a collective effort to engage the shipping industry, which in some cases has agreed to change shipping lanes," said Clark. "But when economics get involved, it’s more difficult for the industry to make changes just because of a large, black animal that’s getting in the way."

The Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has deployed moored buoys fitted with underwater listening devices that automatically detect whales and relay the data back to Cornell. Soon the near to real-time data will appear on a Web site map. Since whales move slowly, a ship’s captain approaching a whale migratory path will be able to check the Web site and avoid that area.

Both federal and state agencies are working with fishermen and engineers to create a rope that breaks at a tension point suitable for whales. The agencies will supply this rope free to fishermen and are instituting mandatory requirements for breakaway gear.

Efforts are also under way to reduce vertical lines from buoys on the surface to lobster pots on the sea floor by consolidating many pots on one line.

Blaine Friedlander | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cornell.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>