Scientists are at a loss to explain one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale — why the animals are disappearing from their usual breeding grounds off the southeastern United States.
Usually, right whales spend the winter in their breeding grounds off Florida and Georgia. Before 2011, more than 200 right whales were spotted in the area each year. In 2017, there were just seven. “How tough can it be to find 200 whales? Apparently pretty tough,” said Jim Hain, associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, located near Falmouth, Mass.
It’s just one of the many puzzles these leviathans present to researchers.
- At least 14 North Atlantic right whales were found dead off the East Coast of Canada and the U.S.
- At least 11 of those were found in Canadian waters.
- The mortality figure is probably larger than we are seeing,” said Hain.
- The birthrate of these creatures has dropped by 40 per cent from 2010 to 2016, and scientists don’t know why.
- The five calves born this year present another puzzle for scientists. They were all born to older mothers, raising the question: where are the first-time mothers?
- “There are big groups of juveniles that are somewhere. And where? We don’t know.”