Home Ocean Humankind is Making Whales Shrink!

Humankind is Making Whales Shrink!

A North Atlantic right whale with five dolphins around the head in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
Photo by LEO on Adobe Stock

Research has been published that further highlights the negative impact humankind is having on whales.

According to the study, human activity results in North Atlantic right whales growing 1m/3.3ft shorter than their predecessors.

The study was published in the journal Current Biology, and shows that a North Atlantic right whale born today will grow 1 meter shorter than one born in 1981. According to the research, the main culprit and cause is entrapment in fishing gear. Once trapped, the whale needs to expend more energy moving, which results in less energy being available for growth. Researchers also highlight that there may be other factors in play like shifting food patterns due to ocean heating, collisions with boats, and more.

According to the lead author, Dr. Joshua Stewart from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

“We found that North Atlantic right whales born in recent years are stunted compared to right whales born several decades ago, and that extended entanglements in fishing gear are causing at least some of that decline in lengths. We weren’t able to identify a direct cause for the decreasing trend over time, but we suspect it could be due to increasing entanglements, disruptions on their feeding grounds from ships, changing ocean conditions and prey availability due to climate change – and possibly other factors.”

While Amy Knowlton, senior scientist at the New England Aquarium and study co-author, added:

“Implementing proven solutions such as reduced vessel speeds, lower breaking strength ropes, and ropeless fishing gear more broadly throughout their range are critical and urgent steps needed to stave off the extinction of this species.”

Check out the full study here.