The Risk For Northern right whales: Is Any Species Safe from Humans?

by Rjpoulin on November 10, 2017 - 11:06pm

In recent months, there have been a substantial amount of deaths revolving around the population of Northern right whales in Canada. A recent study of the population concluded that this past season has been the worst for right whales in almost 80 years, resulting in the death of approximately 2% of their population (Whittle, 2017). A biologist named Regina Asmutis-Silvia who researches for the Whale and Dolphin conservation stated the severe increase in deaths among these mammals have appeared from their collision into large ships, or have been severely damaged or killed due to their entanglement in fishing gear (2017). The main actors involved in this particular case range from a wide variety of involved fishermen using large ships and netting, as well as several ocean-based programs and charities, and finally the Canadian Government (more specifically Fisheries and Oceans Canada). A researcher named Scott Kraus runs a right whales programs, and he stated that one of the possibilities that these whales are beginning to become so vulnerable to to the stated implications is due to tithe knowledge that they are having to travel further and more frequently due to the changes in the availability of food and also due to the warming of the ocean waters caused from climate change 2017). Canada has begun to take action on the severe loss of the right whales by creating several policies and messages to fellow fishermen, including the reduction of speed allowance through the waters to decrease the amount of collisions, as well as close the snow crab season earlier in order to reduce the amount of whales caught in nets and other fishing gear.

While many great changes and preventions have been implemented, there still appears to be great room for improvement. I believe that Canada should be adopting more adaptive management strategies in order to provide better protection and sustainability to the Northern right whale. A substantial improvement that adaptive management may bring to the table with regards to tackling the whale population decrease is involved when noting that the main goal of adaptive management is to not only develop more resilient policies on the given topic, but also to implement better strategies and actions to achieve said objectives. While Canada is taking advantage of our resources available and applying several of these policies and actions to better prevent more deaths from occurring, there are some pressing limitations being presented. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began to suspend the freeing of whales which were tangled in fishing lines, and turned their attentions to other pressing matters at hand. While their actions may be justified, it may be more beneficial to the whale population to implement more adaptive strategies, specifically for fishermen, which may include the continuous checking of their fishing lines in order to ensure that the only creatures caught in their nets are the ones that should be there. I believe that, due to the vast amount of open water around the world, it is difficult to create a sustainable market without causing detrimental effects to fellow species, however, adaptive management may provide a more effective and formalized approach to protecting and sustaining different populations, whether it be through their ability to study where the cause and effect of a situation may occur, or the notion that any results they come to, even if it does not exceed, should not be negatively impacting the resource at hand in any way. Adaptive management provides a wide window of opportunity, even if that meant tagging and tracking various members of the whale population at stake, in order to better understand why their species are declining so rapidly. Overall, I believe that adaptive management opens up various options for Canada to not only sustain the current right whale population, but to prevent future occurrences from surfacing.


Whittle, Patrick (2017). Accidental deaths of endangered North Atlantic right whales threaten species’ survival. Retrieved from;