Saving endangered whales at no cost. Academic Article uri icon


  • The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most critically endangered marine species. Drastic overexploitation has driven this large, slow-swimming baleen whale to virtual extinction in Europe, while a small remnant population of ~350 individuals remains on the U.S. and Canadian east coast. Although this species has been protected for 70 years, recovery has been slight and extinction is still looming because of accidental mortality from shipstrikes and fishing gear (Figure 1A,B). Seventy five percent of appropriately photographed whales show evidence of entanglement, predominantly with lobster fishing gear, and this percentage has increased from 52% in the 1980s. At the same time, the U.S. lobster fishery is severely overexploited (the inshore fishing mortalities in the two main U.S. regions are 0.69 and 0.84, while 0.2 achieves maximum yield per recruit). We argue here that this endangered whale species can be protected from entanglement mortality, and the fishery can benefit simultaneously, by a large reduction of lobster traps used; a classic win–win situation.

publication date

  • January 9, 2007