Endangered North Atlantic right whales have suffered increased mortality in recent years as their migration habits have changed due to warming ocean waters.Endangered North Atlantic right whales have suffered increased mortality in recent years as their migration habits have changed due to warming ocean waters. Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources Permit 15488Using sound to track the presence of North Atlantic right whales could help protect the critically endangered species from further deadly interactions with humans, new research finds.

Monitoring right whales’ distinctive calls with underwater microphones could help regulators to prevent them from coming into contact with fishing gear and large ships, two major causes of death for the protected animals, according to a recent scientific study that involved nearly 20 research organizations, including two in Maine.

Sean Todd, chair of marine sciences at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor and a collaborator on the study, said Wednesday that more live monitoring is urgently needed, especially in Canada, which has fewer protections for right whales.

“Whale migration is shifting so rapidly that it is difficult to place preventative measures within an effective time frame,” Todd said. “Hopefully, real-time acoustic monitoring and our improved knowledge of right whale movements will lead to fewer deaths in the future.”

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