Magnificent Beast

In order to protect the dwindling number of Northern Right Whales, the “Marine Mammal Protection Act” of 1972 mandated that the amazing “Eubalaena Glacialis” be given wide berth by, among others, mariners.  As reported in The New York Times in March 2009, the MMPA was working; the population of Northern Right Whales had increased. But the recent death of a young female off Cape Cod, possibly from a collision with a ship, and reports of declining births in normal calving areas have rekindled concern for the species’ future.

Detailed information about the location of the whales and ship approach requirements can be found in Chapter 3 of Coast Pilot Volumes 1 and 2 (these cover the seasonal foraging areas off the Northeast Coast) and Volumes 3 and 4 (these cover the seasonal calving areas off the Southeast Coast).

Here are some additional resources for navigating in or near the North Atlantic Right Whale.

The USCG Examinations for Deck officers have included several questions on the North Atlantic Right Whale.

The population of Northern Right Whales, an endangered species, numbers approximately __________.
A. 300
B. 5,000
C. 100,000
D. 1,000,000
Answer: A (Note that the number is now closer to 500, but nowhere near the other choices.)
Information on Northern Right Whales can be found in __________.
A. the Coast Pilot
B. Ship's Medicine Chest and Medical Aid at Sea
C. Publication 229
D. the Nautical Almanac
Answer: A
A vessel sighting a Northern Right Whale dead ahead should __________.
A. maintain course and speed
B. report the whale's position to the Canadian Coast Guard
C. alter course to give a wide clearance
D. All of the above
Answer: C
If within 500 yards (460m) of a Northern Right Whale you are lawfully obligated to __________.
A. stop the vessel and sound repeated blasts on the ship's whistle to scare the whale away
B. slow to bare steerageway until the whale swims away
C. turn away from the whale and leave at full speed
D. turn away from the whale and leave at slow speed
Answer: D
Vessels should maintain a sharp lookout, especially during December through March, when navigating the right whale's only known calving grounds which lie off the coasts of __________.
A. Maine and Massachusetts
B. Georgia and NE Florida
C. Nova Scotia
D. California and Mexico
Answer: B
Northern right whales can be identified by __________.
A. "V" shaped blow easily visible from ahead or behind
B. whitish patches of skin on top of the head
C. no dorsal fin on the back
D. All of the above
Answer: D
It is unlawful to approach within how many yards of a northern right whale?
A. 200
B. 300
C. 400
D. 500
Answer: D