The efforts to preserve and protect the North Atlantic right whale population have been on-going for more than three decades. The change to shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy was a turning point that gave the huge mammals a chance to rebound and evidence of its success has been spotted in the waters off southern Nova Scotia.
Moira Brown is a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium, in Boston. She and a team of researchers spent August and September tracking right whales in the Bay of Fundy, the Bay of Chaleur and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Her team spotted a pair of right whales off the coast of southern Nova Scotia, a mother and calf.
Brown had seen the mother before. In fact, Brown has known Calvin since the early 90s, when the whale’s mother was killed, most likely after being struck by a ship.
The orphaned calf, Calvin, wasn't expected to survive, but has.
“The fact that we didn't lose Calvin and she has now produced three calves and seems to be robust and in good health, if we had lost Calvin, we would have lost those three additions to the right whale population,” says Brown. “We spent three hours with Calvin and her calf. They were the only right whales that we saw in that small area.”
There are now more than 500 right whales in the Atlantic, a milestone number according to researchers who'd like to see that growth continue.
“The right whales are doing their part, they're producing calves, so if we can do our part, by having their habitats safe from vessel strikes and from gear entanglement as well, then we're going to give this species a chance to flourish and go on into many generations from now,” says Brown.
The skeleton of Calvin’s mother hangs in the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John and is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.
Catrina Russell is a public programmer at the museum. She says the fact that the species is on the rebound should only enhance public interest.
“It's really exciting for people to be able to connect the skeleton, the whale they see in the gallery to a real whale, swimming around in the ocean, to know that she's the grandmother to all of those little calves swimming around,” says Russell.
Brown says they need to identify other areas right whales frequent and get that information to the global shipping community.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Andy Campbell