There are currently only around 400 North Atlantic right whales left. Only 400…and some people have never even heard of a right whale. Luckily, there are some incredible initiatives out there, including Year of the Right Whale (YORW), which is doing everything they can to ensure the survival of right whales.
YORW’s mission is to celebrate, educate, and fundraise for right whales so that the species receives adequate protection by the year 2020. YORW is coordinated by Jennifer Kennedy of Blue Ocean Society and Cynde McInnis of The Whalemobile—two very passionate and dedicated ocean warriors doing everything in their power to bring justice to these whales. YORW hosts a variety of programs, such as “Booth in a Box”, an interactive educational booth to spread the word on right whales that you can request for any event! They also supply materials for educators on right whales, such as curriculum packets for teachers. Check out some of their pages below to learn more about YORW and how you can help right whales!
Why are they at risk?
During the peak of whaling, right whales were a prime target. This is because they were considered to be the “right whale” to hunt, due to their high blubber content, which allowed them to float after being killed, and their relatively slow movement. Because of this their populations were decimated, and they’re still recovering from the damage.
The biggest threat to right whales today is entanglements in fishing lines attached to gillnets and traps on the ocean floor. Vessel strikes also cause many right whale deaths since their migration routes are close to major ports, as does ocean noise, which causes noise pollution and disrupts their normal behavior and communication with one another.
Why are right whales important?
Every single large species of whale is vital for the survival of marine ecosystems. Of course, they take part in controlling the populations of the small fish and invertebrates they eat (right whales feed on zooplankton and copepods), but the main reason large whales are important is because of their poop and carcasses. As whales dive deep to feed and come back to the surface, they release large amounts of fecal (POOP) matter. This brings essential nutrients from the depths of the ocean up to the surface water where they stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, the BASE of ALL marine food chains. Whales also migrate extremely long distances and transport this poop fertilizer from places that have it to places that need it. More whale poop equals healthier oceans. Whales also give back to the ocean even after death! Whale carcasses provide a banquet for up to 400 different species! These carcasses also transport about 190,000 tons of carbon (that’s equivalent to what 80,000 cars produce per year!) from the atmosphere to the deep ocean. The “deep ocean” holds excess carbon, so right whales are climate change fighters too!
(All information found from an amazing TED talk by Asha de Vos! https://www.ted.com/talks/asha_de_vos_why_you_should_care_about_whale_poo?language=en#t-250005)
What Can You Do to Help?
1.Stop using single-use plastic. This one should be a no-brainer! Any plastic ever used is still lingering around somewhere, most likely in our oceans. Any type of pollution in the oceans puts every animal at risk, so the less plastic used, the better off right whales are!
2. Start talking about right whales. A lot of people don’t know how dire the situation is for right whales, and some may not even know what a right whale is! The more they’re talked about, the better chance they have to be protected. Follow Year of the Right Whale on Instagram or Facebook to easily share news!
3. Shop locally. Buying food locally reduces your carbon footprint because the food has fewer miles to travel, which in return keeps more boats off the water that could potentially hit a right whale. It also protects land, water, and wildlife use since it’s through smaller farms and businesses. Not only does this help right whales and all other wildlife, but it also gives you fresher produce and supports the local workforce!
4. Cut down on ALL waste! It’s not just single-use plastic that’s wasteful; think about areas in your life where you can start cutting down on your waste. It all eventually makes its way back to the ocean. Don’t waste food, pick up trash—you know the deal!
5. Report right whale sightings! Any data on right whale sighting is helpful in saving them, especially if you report a whale that appears to be in distress (entangled, stranded, etc.) and can potentially be saved.
Virginia to Maine, call (866) 755-6622 and Florida to North Carolina, call 877-WHALE-HELP (877) 942-5343
6. Stay 500 yards away! If you ever encounter a right whale, it’s the law to stay at least 500 yards away—that’s about 4 football fields!
7. In the U.S., contact your Senate and State Representative and ask them to support the SAVE the Right Whales Act!
We are the North Atlantic right whales’ greatest threat AND only hope. Even the smallest actions can help save one of our world’s most amazing creatures.
What changes could you make in your life to benefit right whales?
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