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Concerns mount over low birthrate of North Atlantic right whales

By Evan Taylor Apr 1, 2024 | 4:15 PM

Two North Atlantic right whales were spotted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on May 7, 2023. Image: DFO Science Aerial Survey Team

Concerns over declining birth rates among North Atlantic right whales have prompted calls for enhanced protections from conservation groups, following the announcement of 2024 measures by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Transport Canada (TC).

Oceana Canada’s campaign director, Kim Elmslie, in a release, highlighted the urgency of the situation, noting that despite the birth of 19 calves this past winter, one calf death is confirmed, with two others presumed dead.

With only 19 calves born so far, compared to an anticipated 25 to 30, concerns about the species’ future are mounting.

 This past winter, 19 calves were born but one is confirmed dead and two more are presumed dead. This underscores how urgent it is for the government to adopt innovations like ropeless fishing gear. Oceana Canada also calls on the government to make all vessel slowdowns mandatory.

-Kim Elmslie, Oceana Canada campaign director

Right whales typically give birth off the coast of Georgia and Florida before migrating to Canadian waters for feeding. However, their journey is fraught with challenges, including encounters with vessels and fishing gear, as well as ocean noise and pollution.

This has raised alarm bells within the conservation community, emphasizing the need for innovative solutions like ropeless fishing gear. Elmslie underscores the importance of mandatory vessel slowdowns and urges swift action to address these pressing challenges.

Meanwhile, Gib Brogan, campaign director for Oceana in the United States, applauds Canada’s efforts in safeguarding right whales but draws attention to the perceived lack of action in the U.S. Brogan calls on President Biden to approve stronger protections, including updated boat speed rules, to prevent further tragedies in U.S. waters.

He warns that delays from the U.S. government could lead to more deaths and underscores the urgent need for immediate action.