years ago, right whales began washing up on the shores of Argentina’s
Patagonian coast. So far, researchers have counted a total of 308 dead whales
right whales in the waters around Peninsula Valdés are amidst the largest
die-off of great whales ever recorded. Whatever is killing them remains
Valdés is one of the most important calving and nursing grounds for the species
found throughout the Southern Hemisphere,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, director
of the WCS’s Ocean Giants Program and a member of the IWC’s Scientific
Committee. “By working with the government of Argentina, the Province of
Chubut, the IWC, and our diverse team of experts and specialists, we can
increase our chances of solving this mystery, the critical next step to
ensuring a future for this population of southern right whales.”
a team of whale and health experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society
joined experts from other organizations at a workshop to try to solve this
perplexing problem. The International Whaling Commission sponsored the
workshop, which convened in Puerto Madryn.
to critically examine possible causes for this increase in calf mortality so we
can begin to explore possible solutions,” said Dr. Marcela Uhart, associate
director of WCS’s Global Health Program and one of the early founders of the
program that discovered the whale deaths. “Finding the cause may require an
expansion of monitoring activities to include the vast feeding grounds for the
one-third of the estimated population of right whales in the Southern
Hemisphere use the protected bays of Península Valdés (a World Heritage Site)
as a calving and nursing habitat between the months of June and December.
southern right whale is one of the world’s great conservation success stories.
Unlike the North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales (both of which number
in the low hundreds), southern rights have managed to rebound from centuries of
commercial whaling, with populations growing at approximately 7 percent annually
since 1970. Growing up to 55 feet in length and weighing up to 60 tons, the
southern right whale is now the most abundant species of right whale in the
But ensuring their long-term survival may require solving this issue quickly. These
charismatic animals are also the focus of a thriving eco-tourism industry along
Argentina’s Patagonian coast.