The eastern population of North Pacific right whales is the most endangered whale population in US waters. Extensively hunted in the nineteenth century, they were protected by international treaties in the nineteen-thirties and forties. However, illegal Soviet whaling in US waters during the 1960s decimated the already reduced population (Brownell et al. 2001), and there have been no signs of recovery since. In fact, for many years the whales were so rarely seen that sightings of individuals warranted publications in themselves (e.g., Carretta et al. 1994, Gendron et al. 1999). Since 1997, they have been found on a regular basis in a small area of the southeastern Bering Sea (LeDuc et al. 2001). In spite of annual research efforts in this area, the entire photographic ID catalog of Bering Sea right whales only includes thirteen individuals, and the genetics archive only contains ten individuals. The population is thought to number only in the low tens. The only encouraging news is the first calf seen in this population that was observed in 2002. Research on this population is ongoing, with the primary goals of obtaining better estimates of the population size and of applying satellite tags to determine their seasonal movements and habitat use.
Brownell, R. L., Jr., Clapham, P. J., Miyashita, T. and Kasuya, T. 2001. Conservation status of North Pacific right whales. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management. (Special Issue) 2:269-286.
Carretta, J. V., Lynn, M. S. and LeDuc, C. A. 1994. Right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) sighting off San Clemente Island, California. Marine Mammal Science 10:101-105.
Gendron, D., Lanham, S. and Carwardine, M. 1999. North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) sighting south of Baja California. Aquatic Mammals 25:31-34.
LeDuc, R. G., Perryman, W. L., Gilpatrick, J. W., Jr., Hyde, J., Stinchcomb, C., Carretta, J. V. and Brownell, R. L., Jr. 2001. A note on recent surveys for right whales in the southeastern Bering Sea. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management. (Special Issue) 2: 287-289.