The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered whales in the world. Their name, the “right” whale, arose from whalers’ desire for a whale that would conveniently float to the surface when killed – therefore, they were the “right” whale to hunt. Historically, there were estimated to be around 50 000 individuals, but their population was degraded to 398 individuals in 1998!
Although whaling was stopped in 1935, the right whale population has not recovered, presumably because they have a low reproductive rate and there are still additional pressures hindering their growth. Right whales are threatened by anthropogenic activity, such as shipping, pollution, and fishing. In fact, the two greatest threats to their survival are entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes.
Since 1970, vessel strikes have been the leading cause of right whale mortality – accounting for nearly 50% of all deaths. So, in order to save this species, conservationists had to devise a solution to minimize the likelihood of a ship hitting a right whale.