A new study published in Oceanography has drawn attention to an imposing threat to Right whales from the Gulf of Maine. Located in the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of North America the Gulf of Maine is a habitat to one of the most endangered species. The new research highlights the rising temperatures in the Gulf’s deep waters which induce paucity of food, causing a change in the movement of right whales. The mammal has been located in unexpected places as a result of climate change.
Nick Record, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences recorded in a statement regarding the study, “The climate-driven changes rippling throughout the Gulf of Maine have serious consequences for the small number of remaining right whales. Climate change is outdating many of our conservation and management efforts, and it’s difficult to keep up with the rapid evolution of this ecosystem.”
Shifting of circulation patterns is caused as a result of climate change in the North Atlantic Ocean. The study reveals that the deep water has been warmed to nearly 9 degrees Fahrenheit since 2004, which is twice as much as the warming waters on the surface. It is due to these changes that a decrease in food supply for the whales has been observed; the supply of right whale’s primary prey has been affected, a high-fat, rice-sized crustacean called Calanus finmarchicus. Calanus also helps to determine where the new right whale habitats will develop. This is an important key for scientists to plan their research accordingly.
“Calanus is the primary reason that right whales, and many other marine animals, including herring, have thrived in the Gulf of Maine,” records Jeff Runge, professor at the University of Maine and research scientist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “But Calanus finmarchicusis a subarctic species living at the southern edge of its range here. Its presence and ability to store high energy fat are at risk by the warming of deep waters, where it spends part of its life cycle.”
The research was conducted by scientists belonging to more than 10 institutions and it produces insights into issues that complicate conservation efforts. The team discovered that it is the misalignment between conservation measures and the current behavior of the whales’ that makes them more vulnerable to lethal encounters with fishing gear and ships, but researchers also attribute a strong connection between water temperatures for the depletion of the species. Reports suggest that research is now directed towards advanced computer technology to anticipate climate change and thus protect the rapid changes in Gulf of Marine, the right whales and other species from extinction.