PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW ENGLAND
AQUARIUM A right whale rises to the surface in this photo shot in the Gulf of
Maine. Researchers at the New England Aquarium report a record number of births
this winter for the endangered species.
Record number of right whale calves discovered
species still teeters on the brink of extinction, a record number of right
whale calves have been found in winter nursery waters off the coast of the
southeastern United States.
Moira Brown, a Canadian
expert on right whales and a senior scientist with the New England Aquarium in
Boston, said the find is extremely encouraging for a still endangered
population that numbers approximately 400 animals.
discovery of the 38 calves comes as Irving Oil Corp. announced it will renew
its sponsorship of the New England Aquarium's right whale research team, with a
financial contribution of $50,000 this year.
donated more than $400,000 to the team over the past 11 years through annual
contributions. Discussions between Brown and Irving officials led to the 2003
decision to shift shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy to protect the right
"Back when I presented this issue to Irving and
their colleagues in the Maritimes, some of the questions centred around if we
move the shipping lanes, would the population recover," Brown said.
"I can't say if that has been the case or not, but it is
so important in the long term because it really does get the shipping traffic
out of the areas with the highest concentrations of whales."
In 2003, Canadian and international shipping officials
agreed to move shipping lanes in the bay between Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova
Scotia, about four nautical miles east in an effort to reduce the risk of ship
This relatively small shift in lanes is believed
to have reduced the risk of accidental collisions between right whales and
ships by as much as 90 per cent in the Bay of Fundy.
While Brown does not have concrete evidence as to why the
right whale population experienced a baby boom this winter, she said the new
whales now have a better chance of surviving.
record year for right whale births was 2001 when there were 31 caves born.
Twenty calves have been born each year, on average, since that date.
The stable birth numbers are encouraging. In 2000, only
one calf was born.
"It's a bumper crop and it doesn't
mean they are recovered yet, but, boy, is it a good sign;' Brown said.
"We have seen better reproductive output, but what we
need to see is survival increase.
The Aquarium's right
whale research began about 30 years ago and the past 10 years have been among
the most successful and productive.
corporations is most important because rather than classically butting our
heads, here you have the scientists trying to recover the endangered species
working with people from a corporation to try to find a solution," Brown said.
"It's one thing to just move the lanes and say, `we're
done, we're good here'. But it's a whole other thing to monitor it and to make
sure we have done the right thing."
Brown said Irving Oil
also participates in the conservation of the species through attendance at
right whale research team meetings. They also hire the aquarium's education
department whale team to visit schools.
"Our whale team
has actually travelled all the way to Saint John to speak to schools and I
think that is a really nice blend, because it helps the younger generation gain
an appreciation for the whales;' she said. "When you work with an endangered
species, you just can't really get away with just doing the research. The
conservation and the education are all important"
Trodson of Irving Oil Corp. in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, said the commitment
to the research team is a long-term relationship.
is a long-term commitment to very valuable research," Trodson said. "We always
assess what the needs of the program are and we will always be contacting
representatives of the aquarium to see what they will need next year.