Human hunting has been the main reason for the dangerous decline of the right whales, but we now have the knowledge, equipment, and skills to remove many threats to their lives. In order to save these whales, scientists from both the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts and the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts work hard to identify problems, gathering as much information as possible so that they can help find answers.
Large container ships carry materials like cars, appliances, and fuel between ports in America and the rest of the world. These are the biggest threat to right whales. The right whales' favorite places to swim and feed are right in the middle of major shipping lanes. To help solve the problem, the NMFS/US government had labeled certain areas of the ocean "critical habitats," so hopefully ship captains will slow their vessels during the seasons that right whales are there.
Also, in combination with government agencies, the Aquarium research team flies small planes over right whales' winter ocean homes off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. When the team spots whales, it radios the Coast Guard and ship captains , and tells them where the whales are in hopes that the captains will change course or slow down.
More than half of all right whales have scars on their bodies because they've been accidentally caught in fishing gear (News article). Scientists hope to develop fishing gear that will either eventually fall apart over long periods of time, or will be strong enough to hold a catch of fish but weak enough for a right whale to break through.
It's important that scientists who know most about right whales work regularly with state and federal government officials to create rules and regulations that they hope will help save these wonderful mammals.
The new mother Metompkin is only one of the few right whales struggling to survive. Thanks to her, and what has been learned during her entanglement, even more is now known about their fascinating and mysterious lives!
NOAA/NMFS Northern Right Whale Sighting Information, Northeast