Since the North Atlantic right whale was protected from hunting in 1935 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and also protected in Canada, which is not a member of the IWC (1), the most important conservation need for this species is the reduction, or elimination, of deaths and injuries from ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear (3). Both the US and Canada have developed recovery plans for this species, with the aim of addressing these issues, and a number of measures have already been implemented. These include regulations in the US to restrict the use of certain types of fishing gear in areas and times where North Atlantic right whales are common, as well as regulations that specify the distance with which a whale-watching vessel or other ship may approach a whale (1). Since 1999, a scheme has been in place in two areas in calving and summering grounds to warn vessels when there are right whales in the area, and in the Bay of Fundy, shipping lanes have been moved to divert them away from the major summer concentrations of right whales (1). As of yet, there is no data to indicate whether such measures have been successful or not (1), and recovery of this species continues to be slow, or even absent (3). If these measures have not been sufficient, the outlook for the North Atlantic right whale is grim. As it is a long lived species, extinction may not occur in the near future, but the extinction of this great whale in the next century is a very real possibility (3).
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