Priority Ocean Areas for Protection in the Mid-Atlantic
Findings of NRDC's Marine Habitat Workshop
Rationale: migratory corridor; endangered species
Seasons and depths important for protection: November–April; pelagic
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered large whale species in the world, resulting from nearly 1,000 years of hunting up until the 1920s. Preg-nant females migrate south from New England and Canadian waters to the southeast United States each fall to give birth in warmer waters, then return north with their young in the spring to feeding grounds in Cape Cod Bay and the Gulf of Maine. Other animals in the population have also been seen in the southeast United States. Because of the high volume of shipping traffic in the mid-Atlantic region and the coastal nature of the migratory corridor, the whales are subject to being hit, as well as getting entangled in fixed fishing gear. Along the mid-Atlantic, most right whales have been seen within 32 kilometers (17.3 nautical miles) of the coast, but these findings may be observer dependent. Limited satellite tag data and surveillance farther south indi-cates the migratory corridor may extend to 53 kilometers (28.6 nautical miles) from the coast. Because of their endangered status, they should be protected up to 56 kilometers (30.2 miles) out from shore, between November and April.
Caswell, H., M. Fujiwara, and S. Brault. 1999. Declining Survival Probability Threatens the North Atlantic Right Whale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. USA 96. 3308–13.
International Whaling Commission (IWC) 1986. Right Whale Past and Present Status. Report of the International Whaling Commission. Special Issue 10.
Knowlton, A.R. 1997. The Feasibility of Regulating Vessel Traffic to Protect North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena glacialis). Thesis for Master’s of Marine Affairs. University of Rhode Island.
Knowlton, A.R., S.D. Kraus, and R.D. Kenney. 1994. Reproduction in North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena glacialis). Canadian Journal of Zoology 72 (7): 1297–1305.
Kraus, S.D., P.K. Hamilton, R.D. Kenney, A.R. Knowlton and C.K. Slay. In press. Status and Trends in Reproduction of the North Atlantic Right Whale. International Journal on Cetacean Research and Management.
Reeves, R.R., J.M. Breiwick, and E.D. Mitchell. 1999. History of Whaling and Estimated Kill of Right Whales (Baleana glacialis) in the Northeastern United States, 1620–1924.
Slay, C.K., and S. D. Kraus. 1997. Right Whale Satellite Tagging and Habitat Use Patterns in the Coastal Waters of the Southeastern United States, Final Report to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Slay, C.K., A. Windham-Reid, S.M. Martin, A.R. Knowlton, J. S. Beaudin-Ring, S.D. Kraus, L.A. Conger, R.D. Kenney, and J. Tobias. 1999. Aerial Surveys to Reduce Ship/Whale Collisions in the North Atlantic Right Whale Calving Ground 1994–2000. Final Report to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Miami, FL.
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