Tuesday, November 8, 2016

North American Right Whale Consortium Overview by NECWA Intern Barbara Cross

Location for NARW annual meeting
The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium meet this past week on November 2nd and 3rd at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in order to share scientific work done by researchers studying Right Whales in the waters of the Gulf of Maine extending down to Florida. The consortium was composed of an executive committee and elected board members as well as scientists, fishermen, students and governing environmental bodies traveling from the east coast of the US and Canada.

A misty day in New Bedford, MA
Among the topics discussed were accounts of lethal and nonlethal entanglement, critical habitat, calf exchange between mothers, new technologies for 3-D imaging, theories on feeding habits relating to flamingo anatomy, migration patterns and much more. The consortium included line fishing displays from commercial lobster fishermen, and the continuing efforts from grade school students, “The Calvineers” who advocate for the recovery of the North Atlantic Right Whale by comparing their desires to the US Bill of Rights.
Display of Right Whale skeleton 

As usual in the science realm, there are always many questions and few answers. The consortium queried during session breaks and discussion periods about basic ideas, “Is there significant evidence to proclaim that North Atlantic Right Whale (NARW) population is crashing?” If so, “What needs to be done about it?” These questions led to a healthy discussion and of course, more questions. At first the solution seemed simple “Take the ropes out of the water,” said the scientists, but also to be considered is the ever present and realistic demands of politics, the economy and present culture. There were several statements on action that were artful and convincing from a single perspective. There is a need for coercion and a focus on the ideas and solutions of people, not just scientists and not just fishermen.
Presentation hall

There is much we still must learn about the NARW including their life history traits. How long do females typically remain reproductive? How long could they live? Is it usual that mothers will raise another mother’s calf? To answer these questions there is a dire need  to be a need for cooperative efforts between scientists, the community, commercial fishermen and young students. Social and cultural cohesion may be a greater challenge then increasing the population of the NARW.


Next year’s North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium annual meeting will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Consortium reception
Right Whale hanging skeletons
Photos by Barbara Cross
For more information about the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium visit https://www.narwc.org