Climate Change and the Right Whale

About Climate Change

Wherever you live, you are connected to the ocean. The ocean covers approximately 70 percent of Earth’s surface and produces nearly the same portion of our oxygen. Our planet teems with life because of its water.

We rely on the ocean to:
Regulate the world’s temperatures
Provide us with food and medicine
Support our economy with a variety of jobs
Provide a recreational play ground

Just as the sea supports us, we protect the sea by responsibly managing marine resources --from global fisheries to coastal tourist hotspots. Now the ocean faces a threat we must work together to address: climate change.

What causes climate change?

Whenever fossil fuels – oil, coal and natural gas – burn in engines, power plants or heating systems, carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide acts like a blanket around our planet, trapping heat.

A healthy ocean helps keep our planet in balance. The ocean acts as a massive sponge, soaking up a portion of the emitted carbon dioxide. Now the sponge is saturated. Yet, fossil fuels are still being used. The chemistry of our ocean is changing and we need to work together to do something about it.

What challenges do humans face from climate change?
Rising sea levels
More severe storms
Changes in food availability

How does climate change threaten whales?

As temperatures increase, ocean waters warm. Migrating marine mammals, such as humpback and right whales, eat zooplankton such as krill and copepods found in cold water. Warmer water means less food for whales.

What’s the solution?

Climate change poses challenges that will need to be solved with everyone working together. Collectively, humans can develop innovative solutions to protect our ocean for the future.

At the Aquarium, we want to lead by example and do everything we can from recycling candy wrappers to utilizing our energy efficiently. We are all part of the solution and by working together we can make a difference in our rapidly changing world.

About the Right Whale and Climate Change

With approximately 500 individuals left, right whales are one of the most endangered whales in our ocean.

Threats to right whales:
Ship strikes
Entanglement in fishing gear
Human-induced climate change

North Atlantic right whales are huge! They can grow to be more than 55 feet long (think 3 cars parked end to end!) and weigh 70 tons (about 15 elephants). Despite their massive size, right whales eat one of the smallest animals in the ocean, copepods.

To get enough food, right whales need areas with dense concentrations of copepods. These large concentrations occur where either ocean currents meet or different densities of water can be found. Rising ocean temperatures, caused by climate change, cause currents to shift and water density to fluctuate. This results in fewer patches of dense copepod populations. Without these concentrations, female right whales can’t gain enough weight to have a successful pregnancy or produce enough milk for their new calf.

Tiny copepods are important to people, too. Humans eat fish like cod, haddock, herring and mackerel. Those fish also eat copepods. Everything on our planet is connected. As our ocean warms, the effects are being felt everywhere, from the smallest to the largest animals.

Working together we can make a difference. By responsibly caring for the world we share with many incredible species including the North Atlantic right whale, we can have a healthy ocean for generations to come.