Posted: Oct 3, 2011 12:21 PM AT
Last Updated: Oct 3, 2011 12:18 PM AT
The population of North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Fundy is continuing to improve as a series of measures seems to be protecting the species, according to a marine biologist.
Moira Brown, a marine biologist with the New England Aquarium, said 60 whales were counted in the Bay of Fundy on one day in mid-September, which is more than her team counted all season last year.
Brown said efforts, like moving shipping lanes out of the whales migratory paths have cut down on collisions with ships by 90 per cent, helping to bring right whale populations back from the brink of extinction.
“In the big picture, the population is starting to increase a little bit,” Brown said.
“It's small, it's about two per cent a year — sort of like interest rates at the bank right now — but that's a much better picture than 10 years ago.”
Moira Brown, a marine biologist with the New England Aquarium, said the right whale population has increased since reforms to shipping lanes were introduced in 2003. CBCBrown has been going to Lubec, Maine, every summer for 32 years to study right whales in the Bay of Fundy.
Right whales can be 16 metres in length and weigh up to 40,000 kilograms. They were hunted extensively in previous centuries and that drove the number of whales down to a few dozen when they were finally put on an endangered list.
The right whale population is now estimated to be between 400 and 500.
Researchers say 21 right whale calves survived their trip to the Bay of Fundy from Florida this season.
Bay of Fundy a 'safer place for right whales'
Brown said the decision to shift the shipping routes in the Bay of Fundy has been a significant factor in helping to protect the whales.
"So now, the Bay of Fundy, the high concentration area for right whales is a lot safer place for right whales,” she said.
“We've reduced the risk of vessel collisions substantially by 90 per cent and it's probably a lot quieter too because the ships are travelling further to the east."
Despite the measures, right whales continue to have run-ins with fishing boats in the bay. There are other measures that could be taken to further protect the species.
Amy Knowlton, a marine biologist with the New England Aquarium, said Canada needs to join American states that are starting to legislate the design and location of fishing nets and lines in the region.
The entanglement issue is still a huge problem,” Knowlton said.
“We know we lost two individuals this winter from entanglement, we have another five or six animals carrying gear.”
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