‘Grim’ Status of Right Whales to be Discussed Saturday in Wellfleet

Right whale #1233 with her 2016 calf in Cape Cod Bay on March 27, 2016. CCS image, NOAA permit #14603.

WELLFLEET – The recent decline of the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale will be discussed during a lecture Saturday as part of Wellfleet’s OysterFest.

Senior Scientist and Director of the Right Whale Ecology Program for the Center for Coastal Studies, Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo, presents “Right Whales at the Brink: Stewardship at the Edge of Extinction” at 10:30 a.m. at the Wellfleet Public Library.

Mayo said the current status of the species is grim as at least 16 have died this year with only five births. Current population estimates for the species are under 500.

“The situation is widely recognized now by scientists and conservationists as a very sad one with a strong indication of a decreasing population,” Mayo said.

Fourteen right whales have been found dead this year in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and Mayo says the cause for several of the deaths are believed to be entanglements or vessel strikes.

“In that area it is quite possible, in fact it is likely, that there were others that were never found that have now sunk to the bottom or have disintegrated,” Mayo said.

There was also a right whale death in Cape Cod Bay, which Mayo said is in spite of the fact that the area is well controlled.

Mayo will also discuss the seasonal arrival of the whales to the Cape and the critical role local waters will play in the future of the species.

“Nearly all of the whales that have been found dead are whales that come here in the winter,” Mayo said. “So these are, in a very real sense, our whales. Cape Cod whales which come into Cape Cod Bay.”

More than 50 percent of the world’s entire right whale population was spotted in Cape Cod Bay this past winter and spring.

The lecture will also feature slides and video taken during research cruises.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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