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Monday, November 27, 2006

Say Goodbye to Right Whales

The effects of the whaling continue to grind on. Right whales are on the brink of extinction (between 300 and 350 left) and still continue to suffer human-induced deaths, mostly from entanglement in fishing gear. When coupled with climate change and slow breeding rates, the future looks grim for these guys:

“The problem with right whales is everything is so complex that there is really no silver bullet answer,” said Barb Zoodsma, who coordinates right whale recovery efforts in the Southeast for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Right whales got their name because they were the right whales for whalers to hunt — they had a lot of blubber, could be found relatively close to shore and floated after they were killed.

Today, the biggest human threats to the whales are being hit by ships or getting entangled in fishing gear...

One concern of scientists is that female right whales, who have only one calf at a time and give birth only every four to six years, must give birth four times to replace themselves.

On average, two of the calves won’t make it to maturity and one will be a male, Zoodsma said. So a female, on average, must live to 28 years to replace herself.

Then there is the worry the whales may have reached the point of no return.

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