Oct 30, 2017

Uncertain recovery of the North Atlantic right whale in a changing ocean

Meyer‐Gutbrod, Erin L., Greene, Charles H.
Global Change Biology
  • States that:
    • Efforts to protect at-risk and endangered species typically focus on reducing anthropogenic sources of mortality
    • However, failing to recognize the additional role of environmental factors can lead to erroneous demographic analyses and conclusions
  • Builds capture-recapture models to quantify the role of prey availability on North Atlantic right whale demographic transitional probabilities
  • Uses a corresponding demographic model to project population growth rates into the next century
  • Projects future recovery of the right whale population as long as prey availability and mortality rates remain within the ranges observed during 1980–2012
  • Warns that recent events indicate a northward range shift in right whale prey, potentially resulting in decreased prey availability and/or an expansion of right whale habitat into unprotected waters
  • Concludes that an annual increase in the number of whale deaths comparable to that observed during the summer 2017 mass mortality event may cause a decline to extinction even under conditions of normal prey availability