Please join us for our May monthly meeting on Thursday, May 3rd at Sandy Creek Nature Center. We will begin at 7:00 pm with refreshments and snnouncements and then have the chance to learn about the conservation of Right Whales. Hans Neuhauser, former chair of the Northern Right Whale Recovery Team and Retired Executive Director
Georgia Land Conservation Center, will present "Is the North Atlantic Right Whale a Canary in the Mine?". See below for more information.
The North Atlantic Right Whale is the most endangered large whale in the world. There are an estimated 451 individuals remaining. How did the species get to be in such a precarious position? Because it was the right whale to kill. When the whale’s only known calving ground was discovered off the coast of Georgia in 1982, a recovery effort was undertaken in both the United States and Canada to help bring these whales back from the brink of extinction. The combined efforts of scientists, fishermen, the shipping industry, conservationists and both US and Canadian government agencies have contributed – I believe significantly- to an increase in numbers from about 300 animals in 1990 to the present 451. In spite of this gradual increase, recovery is not assured. While no longer hunted for their oil and baleen plates, right whales continue to be hit by ships and become entangled in fishing gear. Last year, 16 right whales died, 4 in US waters and 12 in Canadian waters. Also, reproduction rates have fallen dramatically: only 5 calves were born in 2017. The number for 2018 are not available yet, but so far this year, zero calves have been sighted in southeastern waters. The future is precarious, in part due to natural causes and in part due to human causes. We can’t do much about the former but we – both US and Canadians – can reduce human impacts – IF WE WANT TO!
Hans Neuhauser is the retired Executive Director of the Georgia Land Conservation Center, a non-profit land conservation advocacy organization located in Athens, Georgia. In his career with the Center and prior to that working for the Georgia Conservancy and serving on the faculty of the University of Georgia, Hans has been an active participant in advancing both the science and conservation of marine mammals and in particular, Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins and the North Atlantic Right Whale.
Hans obtained a Masters’ degree in Zoology from the University of Georgia and became a volunteer member of the Smithsonian Institution’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network. He has authored several scientific papers on whales, including “Whales of Georgia” which he co-authored with Carol Ruckdeschel, and the article on right whales in the New Georgia Encyclopedia (www.georgiaencyclopedia.org). As a member of the Stranding Network, he recorded the stranding of a dead baby right whale on Little St. Simons Island in 1981. That led to the discovery of the only known calving ground for the right whale off the Georgia and north Florida coasts. That discovery, in turn, led to the formation of a National Right Whale Recovery Team, which he chaired for the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Team developed the first recovery plan for right whales in the western north Atlantic (1991). Among its recommendations were the designation of “critical habitats” for right whale recovery off Florida, Georgia and Massachusetts, a 500-yard minimum approach rule and measures to reduce ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements. To help advance the Team’s recommendations and to promote cooperative efforts to conserve right whales among disparate partners, he started Right Whale News and edited it for 15 years. Subscribers came from 21 countries including many that border important right whale habitats. In his retirement, he continues to serve on the editorial board of Right Whale News. Hans also served on several right whale recovery implementation teams and he co-facilitated the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Team, successfully bringing fishermen, conservationists, scientists and managers to consensus on actions to reduce the take of Dolphins in fishing gear.