Whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are under mounting threats in the ocean including entanglements in fishing gear, ocean noise, loss of food source as bait moves due to warming oceans, and ship strikes. Despite our conservation efforts, some populations here in New England are declining: this summer we saw an unprecedented and concerning increase in right whale deaths.
Researchers now predict the North Atlantic right whale could become extinct in the next twenty years. Scientists estimate there are only about 100 mature right whale females left, leaving in question whether they can reproduce quickly enough for the species to survive.
Whales are certainly beloved and iconic animals here in New England, but they are also vital to a healthy ocean. Their feces provide important nutrients that form the base of the marine food web, and whales help distribute those nutrients and smaller organisms that feed on them throughout the water column by their continual deep dives and surfacing.
Hundreds of W2O members and our friends turned out at our lecture THINK BIG: A passion lived. An ocean saved. Our event featured the incredible personal journey of Sri Lankan marine biologist, National Geographic Explorer and MCAF Fellow Dr. Asha de Vos in May of 2018. She shared insights about how local conservation efforts can be leveraged. Her message emphasized that conservation solutions come from all corners of the world and require collaboration across disciplines.
We raised almost $55,000 to fund the Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF) at the New England Aquarium, which supports scientists with micro-grants across the globe, particularly in developing countries.
We learned the survival of the North Atlantic right whale is threatened by fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes. Possible solutions are being explored to redesign fishing gear to be quick release. In the meantime, W2O is committed to educating our community about the severity of the threats facing these whales.
We are also grateful to US Rep. Seth Moulton of and US Senator Cory Booker, who have teamed up to support a bill to create a grant program to fund collaborative projects between states, non-governmental groups, and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce human impact on the endangered right whale.
The focus of W2O’s programming and actions in the year ahead will focus on solutions and unique collaborations around the effort to save the North Atlantic right whale.
Follow the Anderson-Cabot Center for Ocean Life of the New England Aquarium’s blog for up to date happenings on right whale research and conservation.