Species: North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The North Atlantic right whale can grow to a massive 16 metres in length and 70 tonnes in weight.
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the rarest large whales in the world. Like other members of the Balaenidae family, this species uses plates of fibrous ‘baleen’ on each side of its upper jaw to strain tiny prey items from the water. The North Atlantic right whale feeds at northern latitudes in summer, migrating south to calving grounds in the winter. Female North Atlantic right whales give birth to a single calf around once every three years.
The common name of this species comes from it being considered the ‘right’ whale to hunt, as it is easy to catch and floats when dead, yielding large quantities of oil and baleen. Centuries of hunting reduced the North Atlantic right whale population to fewer than 350 individuals by 2008, and the species is now virtually extinct in the eastern North Atlantic. Although hunting is now banned, the North Atlantic right whale still faces threats from entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with boats, pollution and climate change. Measures are in place to protect it, such as fishing gear regulations and changes to shipping lanes, but it is not yet clear whether these have been effective.
Find out more about the North Atlantic right whale and its conservation at WWF – North Atlantic right whale.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author