The news that North American right whales — considered to be the second-most endangered marine mammal in the world — have been migrating further north into Canada in just the past two years because of a shift in their traditional feeding grounds that has been brought about by warming waters in the eastern part of the Gulf of Maine is yet another indication of the direct and indirect consequences of climate change and global warming.
The situation is this: Water temperatures in the eastern Gulf of Maine have warmed more than just about any body of water on the planet thanks to a shift in ocean current patterns that have been caused by the loss of sea ice in the Arctic.
As a result of the warmer water temperatures in the eastern Gulf, the population of the copepod Calanus finmarchicus, a tiny flealike creature that hibernates in deep water over the winter and comes to the surface in the summer, where it then becomes food for the right whales (who scoop them up by the millions with their sieve-like baleen), has declined by 90 percent.
This has forced the right whales to move further north into the St. Lawrence Seaway in pursuit of the copepods.
However, unlike in the Gulf of Maine, where regulations have been in effect for decades to protect the right whales from ship-strikes and the effects of lobster and fishing gear, no similar regulations existed in the St. Lawrence Seaway until just this past year — but only after more right whales were killed in 2017 than in any previous year by ships and netting.
The Canadian government finally imposed regulations designed to protect the whales and now is monitoring the right whales by air in order to provide virtually around-the-clock surveillance of these wonderful creatures. As a result, there were few reported deaths in 2018.
However, taking such steps is doing nothing more than applying the proverbial band-aid to just one of the many adverse effects caused by the overall problem of climate change.
The change in the right whales’ migration patterns is just another nail in the coffin of these animals, whose total population numbers around just 400. It is thought that unless something miraculous occurs, the No. American right whale will become extinct within 20 years — and even that might be optimistic given the rapid increase in climate change that is accelerating at a rate far faster than even the most-dire warnings had predicted.
The North American right whales are the proverbial canary in the coal mine for every living creature on the planet. Their migration in the pursuit of food mirrors what is happening across the earth, not only in the animal world, but for humans as well. This is why the U.S. military views climate change not only as a direct threat to our naval bases because of rising ocean levels, but also as the gravest threat to world peace in the coming decades because of instability in regions of the world from where hundreds of millions of people will be forced to migrate in order to survive.
Scientists tells us that the window of opportunity to stop global warming and climate change is closing with every passing day because of the refusal of governments to take the steps necessary to save the planet as we know it.
It already may be too late to save the North American right whale from extinction. We can only hope that we still have a chance to save us from ourselves.