1. The lobster and crab industries are responsible for a majority of North Atlantic right whale deaths. We go into much more detail on this in our Entanglement in Fishing Gear page but the fact is, these industries are driving North Atlantic right whales towards extinction and causing massive suffering along the way. We recommend avoiding anything caught in traps or gillnets to avoid contributing to the deaths of these whales. We must decide as a nation whether consuming fish and crustaceans is worth the suffering and possible extinction of these whales as it has unfortunately become clear that the industry is not changing their practices to help these whales. When we stop eating these foods we can feel good knowing that we are no longer supporting an industry that is violating the Endangered Species Act by killing these whales.
2. If you are piloting a boat remember that it is illegal to be within 1,500 feet of North Atlantic right whales. If you find yourself within the zone, depart immediately at a safe, slow speed. We recommend avoiding as many trips on boats as you can, whether it be personal watercraft or cruise ships. The large amount of ships in the ocean not only kill and injure whales by colliding with them, they also create noise pollution. The oceans are quite literally too loud for whales to be able to properly communicate with each other.
3. When it comes to making decisions on purchases we recommend trying to buy locally-made, or at least American-made products, so that they don't have to be brought in on a container ship. The continued use of these cargo ships risks more ship strikes that kill and injure North Atlantic right whales and all other species of whales that inhabit the ocean. In one study of whale deaths around the world, researchers discovered that ships 80 meters or longer were responsible for more deaths than any other type of ship.
4. Avoid single-use plastic as much as possible and join (or conduct your own!) beach cleanups around you whenever you can. A full clean-up is ideal but if you can only grab a few things while you're there here's a few key things to pick up: plastic bags, rope and netting and anything with a loop on it (shipping straps, plastic 6-pack rings, etc.). Plastic bags look like jellyfish when they're in the water so they are a particularly bad thing for any species that eats jellyfish including sperm whales and sea turtles. The rope, netting and any items with an enclosed loop such as six-pack rings are ingestion hazards and they could entangle sea life as well so removing these and cutting them up before properly disposing of them is crucial.
5. Don't flush tampon applicators, q-tip sticks or any sort of plastic in toilets. These items float to the surface during sewage treatment and even though sewage treatment has improved over the years, lots of plastic doesn't get filtered out and ends up in the ocean. Ingestion of plastics has been documented in at least 56% of cetacean species, with rates of ingestion as high as 31% in some populations. Plastic never truly biodegrades and is a major problem in the oceans. In 1985, it was estimated to kill up to 100,000 marine mammals every year and plastic pollution in the oceans has significantly increased since then. The full impact is currently unknown as many deaths from plastic pollution happen out at sea so it's most likely even worse than we know.
6. Reducing our consumption of fossil fuels is another important action you can take to help these whales. Oil tankers strike whales and the burning of fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases that contribute to rapid warming of North Atlantic right whale habitat. One of the worst threats from these industries is the seismic blasting that's used to find pockets of oil and gas. It's devastating to marine life and increased levels of underwater noise have been shown to cause high levels of stress in North Atlantic right whales. There are many things you can do to make your home energy efficient during warmer months and in cooler months so we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. There are also key things you can do to reduce the energy usage of electronics in your home or office. Switching to LED light bulbs and purchasing Energy Star-rated appliances are also important ways to reduce energy usage. And, when it comes to your car, there are many things you can do to increase fuel efficiency.
7. When it comes to lawn care, natural is the way to go. Pesticides and fertilizers are unnecessary and should be avoided. Pesticides are toxic to sea life and fertilizers cause severe damage when rain washes them into waterways and storm drains that carry them out to the ocean. The NOAA's 5-year review of North Atlantic right whales released in 2017 stated, "There is evidence that some contaminants, particularly those in flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), detergents and pesticides (alkylphenol ethoxylates), disrupt endocrine pathways and reproduction in animals." The report also noted that a 2010 study "analyzed blubber samples taken from five North Atlantic right whales that stranded along the eastern U.S. and Canada, and detected the presence of organochlorines, PCB's, and brominated flame retardants in all five samples."
8. In addition to avoiding pesticides and fertilizers, it's best to avoid as many man-made chemicals as possible such as flame retardants, harmful cleaners that don't properly break down and as many pharmaceuticals as possible. Many chemicals don't get properly filtered out during sewage treatment and end up in lakes and the oceans when the effluent is pumped out of the treatment center. Phosphates, which are in many cleaning supplies, encourage plant growth which use up the oxygen marine life needs. They have been banned or reduced in at least 16 states but are still legal in a majority of states. Unfortunately, just because a product is legal in some areas doesn't mean it's safe. Many chemicals, such as PCB's, have been banned later on after they were found to have been dangerous but should have been banned much sooner. The long term effects of many chemicals, and the effect of chemicals combining with others (the synergistic effect) is currently unknown. It's better for our health and the health of all the species that inhabit the oceans to use natural cleaning products that don't contain harmful chemicals.
9. When new regulations need public comments, new legislation needs notes of support (or opposition) or petitions need signatures we will send out the word a few different ways. We are on Facebook and Tumblr. And, if you haven't read our Facts page yet we recommend checking that out as well. We talk about some of the things listed above with more depth, context and information so you can find out the details about what these whales are up against and how you can help them.
No one, including the writers of the actions listed above, is immune from mistakes but if we change now and get into good habits regarding these things then we can give these whales a fighting chance. Our actions are hurting these whales but it doesn't have to be that way, the change can start with us, right here and right now. These whales need as much support as they can get so we thank you for coming to our site and looking for ways to take action!
North Atlantic right whale and calf
Photo credit: NOAA/NMFS NOAA News - full size photo