Study: Smaller Right Whales Have Fewer Calves

Right whale #4550, a juvenile female born in 2015, photographed in Cape Cod Bay by the Center for Coastal Studies aerial survey team on January 6, 2020. CCS, NOAA permit #19315-1.

WOODS HOLE – A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and New England Aquarium has found that smaller North Atlantic right whales give birth to fewer calves.

The two organizations teamed up with multiple groups, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to find this information.

Teams studied aerial photos of 41 female right whales taken between 2000 and 2019, finding that smaller mothers produced fewer babies.

The declining size of female right whales, according to the research, can be partially attributed to fishing gear entanglements.

The study contends that more stressful situations for these endangered mammals lead to less physical growth. North Atlantic right whales are especially vulnerable to entanglements and boat strikes.

With less size for these whales also comes more time needed for them to recover from giving birth.

Researchers fear that these declining whale sizes could be playing a part in the species’ birth rate decline.

Estimates indicate that there are less than 350 North Atlantic right whales remaining, and their birth rate is at its lowest point in four decades, according to the aquarium.

About Brendan Fitzpatrick

Brendan, a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is one of the newest members of the NewsCenter team. When not on the beat, you'll probably find him watching Boston sports.
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