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Right Whales Return

June 1, 2009

The critically endangered right whale has returned to the seas off of Greenland after a long absence.


Right whales return home. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

North Atlantic right whales once summered in the waters off the southeastern tip of Greenland, in addition to those of New England and Nova Scotia. Overhunted by whalers, the population crashed in the late 19th century, and the Greenland whales disappeared altogether. One of the world’s most endangered cetaceans, only about 350 right whales survive today. But biologist Dave Mellinger of Oregon State University says the species has unexpectedly returned to Greenland. His team re-discovered the whales while listening for their calls in the waters around the old Greenland whaling grounds.

DAVE MELLINGER (Oregon State University):
We detected them on 17 diff days one fall when we think they were migrating south. Finding any right whales is pretty exciting.

Mellinger says it’s possible these whales represent a previously undocumented population – good news for the species. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.