As Female North Atlantic Right Whales Become Smaller, They Are Giving Birth to Fewer Calves

The population of the North Atlantic right whales continues to decline, and one of the reasons is that female right whales are getting smaller.

Smaller bodies make these females carry fewer calves.

But why female North Atlantic right whales are getting smaller is not just about the lack of food. They often fall victim to entanglement in fishing gear.

Photo: YouTube/NOAA Fisheries

The problem is so serious that it affects not just the females. Based on the data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 85% of the North Atlantic right whale population has experienced entanglement, which often causes serious injuries and infections.

What is more, whales suffer from severe stress after such an experience. They lose their appetite and their energy, and some of them die.

Experts believe that chronic entanglement is also the reason why female right whales are bearing fewer calves and why it takes them longer to breed.

Photo: YouTube/NOAA Fisheries

Another threat to this whale species is collision with sea vessels. Right whales suffer from broken bones, massive internal injury, and even untimely death when they are struck by almost any size of vessel.

Then, there’s climate change. Marine life that sustains these whales has moved to other regions, and the whales must consume more energy and time to find them.

With lesser food and energy, female right whales, which used to have calves every 3 or 5 years, now take 6 – 10 years to get pregnant.

Photo: YouTube/NOAA Fisheries

Now, that the seas and oceans have also become noisier, communication among right whales often gets disrupted. They are experiencing difficulty in navigation and in detecting predators along with other threats.

The future is looking bleak for the North Atlantic right whales, with only 350 of them remaining and the breeding females numbering only 100.

NOAA Fisheries is seeking more effective means to conserve and support their population.

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