Somethings Going Right!

We do hear a lot about the negatives in conservation. What’s going wrong, which species are not recovering and how we are contributing to that! This is all very important, we need to share and publicise the areas that require our attention and need to be focused on.

However, in the news recently has been a brilliant success sorry and sometimes we need positives and successes to keep us going, to know that what we are doing works and that we are making a difference.

So this latest and greatest success story is that the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). This whale is the most endangered of all the large or “great” whales (Blue, Fin, Sei, Bryde’s, Bowhead, Humpback, Gray, Minke, Sperm and Right Whales). Having been greatly impacted by whaling both historic and modern its numbers dwindled with the numbers of individuals in the population being as low as 300 when monitoring began over three decades ago.

Following the moratorium (1986) on whaling this species has been at risk from two main threats affecting its recovery. These are (1) Ship Strikes and (2) Entanglement in Fishing Gear. The Bay of Fundy, Canada and Cape Cod Bay, USA which are critical habitat areas for North Atlantic right whales are also where there exists a large risk from these two threats for this species.

North Atlantic Right Whale Skim Feeding (Photo Credit: NOAA/NEFSC)

The good news however is that now more than 500 individuals have been recorded in the latest census. This is absolutely amazing and a massive bounce back from being close to the brink of extinction.

How has this happened?

Ocean Noise And Why It Matters

Think about it, you are at a party and trying to talk  to someone in your group and you’re having to raise your voice as the music gets louder and the party gets more raucous. Soon you are struggling to hear and trying to lip read, conventional communication breaks down. Now imagine that happening nearly everyday of your life…no not the partying…the inability to be able to communicate using your voice. What if you were in different rooms to your friends or family then you couldn’t even use sign language…This is what is happening to many marine mammals the world over.

First a little background interlude:

The ocean is inherently noisy, from crashing waves to cracking ice, however due to an increased human presence on the ocean over the last fifty years the amount of anthropogenic noise pollution has significantly increased and in some places surpassed that of natural sources. This anthropogenic noise comes from shipping traffic (transporting produce, cargo and natural resources) and also noise that is a result of ocean exploration such as seismic activity and sonar. This noise pollution has become so prevalent and increased over such a short time that the International Maritime Organisation added commercial shipping noise and its impacts on marine life to its Marne Environment Protection Committee work programme back in 2008.