2021 was a better calving season for the North Atlantic right whales

The North Atlantic right whales suffer from vessel strikes and entanglements in fishing gear at such a rate that the deaths of the whales may be outnumbering their reproduction numbers.

This year, the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales had the highest number of births since 2015. Researchers identified 19 live calves, which is positive news compared to the meager number of only 22 births observed during the previous four calving seasons combined. 

This number is hopeful news, and the number of 19 gets close to the 24 four that researchers hope for, which could stabilize the species and let it grow. But the long-term trend is deeply worrying. 


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Less than 400 right whales left

Those 22 births are about a third of the previous four-year average annual birth rate for right whales; the population has declined for the past decade. Worldwide, there are less than 400 of these whales left. Scientists raised the alarm three years ago when they found that not one of the whales had produced any offspring at all; it was the first time in 30 years that this happened.

Each fall, some right whales travel more than 1,000 miles from their feeding areas in the waters of New England and Canada to the shallow, coastal waters of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida. Researchers also go there each year to closely monitor the southeastern United States for new offspring during the calving season. It is the only known area where these right whale females regularly give birth and nurse their young. 

Entanglements in fishing gear and vessel strikes

The North Atlantic right whales suffer from vessel strikes and entanglements in fishing gear at such a rate that the deaths of the whales may be outnumbering their reproduction numbers. The numbers seem to confirm this; fewer breeding females produce fewer calves each year, which also prevents the species from recovering. Researchers estimate there are fewer than 100 reproductively active North Atlantic right whale females remaining.

The news of the higher number of births was one of the news items in Week 13 of this year, the last days of March, and the first days of April. I mention it here since we are looking back at 2021 in big steps of one week per day.


Meanwhile in Ontario

Since I arrived in Ottawa in November, I had never set foot in a cafe or restaurant due to covid restrictions (and neither could I visit a hairdresser ;-). So it was only in Week 13 that I ordered my first cup of coffee in a cafe, with the request to drink it outside and in a not environment-friendly north-American size throw-away cup. 

I always like this spot where you see the reflections of the parliament buildings in Ottawa. This street is also about 5 km from home and is often a turnaround point when running this route that passes well-known sites of Ottawa. (I may write about that someday).

And I visited Brockville, Ontario.


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This is what I wrote on April 4 this year, after I had visited the peatlands of Mer Bleue in the early morning:

The peatlands story of April 4, 2021


Notes:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/03/north-atlantic-right-whales-most-calves-since-2015

https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/endangered-species-conservation/north-atlantic-right-whale-calving-season-2021

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Atlantic_right_whale

First photo: Moira Brown and New England Aquarium, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

Second photo: Eubalaena glacialis with calf Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=741392