Right Whale

General information
Quick Facts
Order Cetacea
Suborder Mysticete (Baleen)
Family Balaenidae
Species Eubalaena glacialis
Status Critically endangered
Weight Average 60 tons, up to 90 tons
Diet Krill, copepods, small schooling fish
Size Average 45 ft, up to 60 feet
Home Worldwide, in very small numbers

Where Do Right Whales Live?

Why Are Right Whales Critically Endangered?

Right whales were the first and most heavily hunted whales during the height of whaling. Because they are among the slowest of the whales, and tend to float when killed, whalers found them easy targets. Right whales have thick blubber which could be rendered into oil and long baleen which was used for corset stays, buggy whips and other things. Hundreds of thousands of right whales were killed for the whale oil and the numerous other products they provided. They were called the “right whales” to hunt. Today there are fewer than 100 right whales in the north Pacific and less than 300 in the north Atlantic.

Why the Funny Face?

Right whales have a very curious set of rough, white, calloused spots on their faces called callosities. These rough patches may have developed to help the right whale defend itself from orca predation. Callosities appear white because they are usually covered in whale lice. Right whales are among the more curious and playful of the baleen whales. It is common for them to investigate boats and even bump kayakers!

Modern Threats

If we have stopped hunting right whales, why are there still so few? One of the main threats to right whales today is ship strikes. Right whales tend to surface when they perceive a threat – such as ship noise – which makes them even more vulnerable to being hit. Shipping areas can be incredibly loud underwater and right whales are not adapted to evading them. To make matters worse, in the case of the North Atlantic Right Whale, their calving grounds lie very near a major shipping area. 

Wurtz, M. and Repetto, N. 2003. Dolphins and Whales. White Star S.r.I. Vercelli, Italy

Eder, T. and Sheldon, I. 2002. Whales and Other Marine Mammals of California and Baja. Lone Pine Publishing, Canada. 

Artwork Copywrighted 2008