Stretching up to 16.8 meters (55 feet) long and weighing up to 62 tons (70 tons), the North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s largest animals—and one of the most endangered whales. Scientists estimate that between 300-400 individuals remain. Why so few? For generations the right whale was hunted for oil and baleen. Today about a third of right whale deaths are the result of collisions with ships and entanglements in fishing gear. Some scientists fear that right whales could become extinct within 200 years. To prevent that from happening, scientists are using a variety of innovative techniques to study, protect and rescue right whales.
Meet not only the North Atlantic right whale but also some other fascinating members of its family tree—past and present. Travel back to the times when whales walked on land and the mighty, serpent-like Basilosaurus prowled the seas.
So what are scientists doing to protect the remaining right whales? Everything they can think of including taking pictures from airplanes, attaching radios to whales’ backs, listening underwater for their comings and goings…and much more.
Why were right whales considered the “right” whale to hunt for so many years? What threats do they face today? Do these critically endangered whales have a fighting chance?