Status of North Atlantic right whales: an update
Peter Corkeron and Richard M Pace III
North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) continue to decline in number. The best current estimate of their abundance is 411 (95% Bayesian credible intervals 389-430) individuals alive at the end of 2017 , down from an estimate of 451 at the start of 2016. No calves were observed to be born in 2018, down from five in 2017, and 14 in 2016. To date (late February 2019), seven calves are known to have been born in the winter 2019 season. Evidence is strengthening that the apparently increased occupancy of the Gulf of St Lawrence by North Atlantic right whales is in response to prey shifts, which are driven by ecosystem changes, that are in turn a result of climate changes. Evidence that chronic entanglement in fishing gear is a significant physiological stressor of North Atlantic right whales is becoming clearer. Two recent studies have assessed the extent to which the recovery of North Atlantic right whales has been constrained by anthropogenic mortality. Initial indications is the management actions taken by Canadian authorities in the Gulf of St Lawrence in 2018 were successful.