In one more sign that North Atlantic right whales are struggling, a new study finds sky-high levels of stress in animals that have been caught in fishing nets. Researchers [at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life] determined the stress hormone levels of more than 100 North Atlantic right whales over a 15-year period by examining their feces.
The New York Times: Stress Hormones Soar in Whales Trapped by Fishing Lines
“It’s really the first time that we’ve been able to look at the internal health of large whales,” said Elizabeth Burgess, a marine biologist at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium. “So it’s quite groundbreaking just in that alone.”
The Washington Post: These whales are stressed out. The proof is in their poop.
Curbing [right whale] entanglements won’t be easy. Technological fixes—including the use of weaker ropes for lobster and crab traps that would allow whales to break free, and electronically controlled traps that don’t require lines at all—would be costly and difficult to implement. “There needs to be a paradigm shift in the fishing industry,” says Amy Knowlton, a whale expert [at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium].
Science Magazine: The North Atlantic right whale faces extinction
The [New England Aquarium] maintains a catalog of images of North Atlantic right whales, in part to track their population levels. The pictures, spanning decades, are crucial to understanding these elusive leviathans.
The New York Times: As Seas Warm, Whales Face New Dangers
The population of North Atlantic right whales has slowly crept up from about 300 in 1992 to about 500 in 2010. But a study that appeared this month in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science said the number of baby right whales born every year has declined by nearly 40 percent since 2010.
Associated Press: Rare whale’s recovery hurt by entanglements, scientists say
The ropes that scientists at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, the Aquarium’s research arm, hope to make would be far weaker than the current industry standard. The goal is to find a sweet spot where the rope is strong enough for fishermen to use in deep water but weak enough for whales to break, said an aquarium research scientist, Amy Knowlton.
Rises in sea level, alarming rates of warming, acidification, and overfishing all motivated Linda Cabot and her husband, Ed Anderson, to make the lead gift to the New England Aquarium to establish the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life in Boston.
The aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund has paid out $700,000 since 1999, supporting 122 projects in 40 countries on six continents. Elizabeth Stephenson, the fund’s manager, calls these projects “stories of hope for the ocean.”