Something strange is happening to the right whales of the North Atlantic. Numbering at only about 300, these slow-to-breed whales are at such a low point in their population that the loss of a single pregnant female could lead to their extinction. So, it’s particularly bad news that an unusually large number of North Atlantic right whales are becoming dangerously entangled in snags of human manufacture.
I wrote at the end of December about the entanglement of a right whale in a snarl of rope off the coast of Florida. It turns out that since then, four other right whales have been found tangled in ropes as well. The ropes appear to have originally come from lobster gathering operations far to the north.
Human harvesting of seafood from the oceans clearly poses a threat to these endangered marine mammals. What can be done? From one member of Congress, the answer has been: Stop trying to help. Don Young, the only member of the House of Representatives from Alaska, has introduced H.R. 843, legislation that would end efforts to try to eliminate the killing of marine mammals by the commercial seafood industry.
Politicians like Don Young aren’t going to do much to make things better. That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done. You can start out yourself by becoming informed, following the quarterly news updates from the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium (another quarterly Right Whale News is available from the Georgia Environmental Policy Institute). You can also adopt a right whale in order to help fund right whale research and conservation efforts in the Canadian part of the whales’ range.