North Atlantic Right Whale #2681 a male born
in 1996; seen near Montauk Point August 23, 2015
2 of 8 right whales sighted during a CRESLI cruise on August 10,
2004 in the Great South Channel (about 90 miles SE of Boston)
Right whales were named so because they were the "right whale" to hunt.
They were the right whale to hunt for a variety of reasons, including
slow swimming speed(4 knots maximum) ; floating after death; significant
amounts of very long and flexible baleen; and significant amounts of
blubber that could be rendered down into oil. Right whales were
"protected" from legal hunting in 1935, but have not been able to
Studies of biopsied North Atlantic right whales indicate very little
genetic variability within the population. This is assumed to be due to
significant inbreeding, following the reduction of the population
(population bottleneck) due to whaling. Reduced reproductive success due
to inbreeding, coupled with the low reproductive rate of mysticetes in
general, might partly explain the lack of recovery of Eubalaena
glacialis. Recent analyses indicate that the population
bottleneck might pre-date whaling (Rastogi, et al, 2004).
Right whales feed almost exclusively on small crustaceans called
calanoid copepods, and hence have a very limited food niche. Right
whales calve in winter off the coast of Georgia and Florida, and can
sometimes be seen in the waters of f New York during their migration to
and from their typical feeding grounds (the Great South Channel, the
Gulf of Maine, the Scotian shelf). Sometimes right whales can be seen in
NY's waters in the summer as well.
Kraus, et al (2005) state: "Despite international protection from
commercial whaling since 1935, the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena
glacialis) remains one of the most endangered whales in the world"
The North Atlantic right whale is endangered throughout its range with
estimated population size of 465 individuals. The IUCN Red List
category "endangered" means that the species or population is "facing a very
high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future."