Though whaling for right whales has been banned since 1937 worldwide, many whalers violated the ban and continued hunting right whales for several decades. All this whaling severely reduced the right whale’s numbers.
Today, the Southern right whale is considered endangered by CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), while the North Pacific is considered endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). The North Atlantic species is facing the most trouble, as it is considered critically endangered. There are only believed to be around400 of this species remaining.
Though whaling has largely ceased, the right whale faces many threats from humanity even today. They can become entangled in fishing nets, and are also sometimes struck and killed by large ships. Noise from underwater drilling and other human activities can disrupt the way the whales communicate, and drive them away from their normal habitats. Additionally, in some waters human pollution and waste has caused an increase in the number of seagulls, which attack and feed on right whales at the surface and can cause infections and sores.
Right whales are popular for whale watching tourism, and in many areas of the world can be seen from shore. This can help raise awareness of the need to protect this endangered species so future generations can enjoy them.