A few years ago, right whales began washing up on the shores of Argentina’s Patagonian coast. So far, researchers have counted a total of 308 dead whales since 2005.
These right whales in the waters around Peninsula Valdés are amidst the largest die-off of great whales ever recorded. Whatever is killing them remains unknown.
About 88 percent of the whale deaths were calves that were less than three months old. Curiously, many of the corpses had unusually thin layers of blubber. The deceased calves found comprise almost a third of all right whale calve sightings in the last 5 years…
“Península Valdés is one of the most important calving and nursing grounds for the species found throughout the Southern Hemisphere,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Ocean Giants Program and a member of the IWC’s Scientific Committee. “By working with the government of Argentina, the Province of Chubut, the IWC, and our diverse team of experts and specialists, we can increase our chances of solving this mystery, the critical next step to ensuring a future for this population of southern right whales…”
The southern right whale is one of the world’s great conservation success stories. Unlike the North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales (both of which number in the low hundreds), southern rights have managed to rebound from centuries of commercial whaling, with populations growing at approximately 7 percent annually since 1970. Growing up to 55 feet in length and weighing up to 60 tons, the southern right whale is now the most abundant species of right whale in the world.
Ensuring their long-term survival may take quicker feet than the average study group, conference or, especially, government committee. No one has determined the cause of the die-off, yet.