Functionally Extinct

Right Whales will be gone in one generation


Right whales were named Right Whales, because they were…..well the “right” whales to kill.

They were the “right” whales to kill [for whale oil] because they swam right up to the boats.

There are less than 340 North Atlantic Right Whales left in existence. And if things don’t change drastically they will be extinct.

Photo Credit: January 20, 2023 approximately 18 nautical miles east of Blackbeard Island, Georgia North Atlantic right whale Pediddle and her 9th calf. Credit: Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, taken under NOAA permit #20556–01

The History

In the 1600s when the English arrived they began murdering the whales off the eastern coast of the continent. Eventually decimating the population.

In the years since the end of factory whaling the population began to bounce back. But these animals faced long odds before modern container ships started hitting them.

The whale lives along the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada.

“We’re not actually going out and sticking them with a piece of steel anymore. We’re just ruining their lives.”

But that area has become increasingly deadly for the whales. They most commonly face threats from boat collisions and entanglement in fishing gear.

It became such a frequent COD that NOAA declared an ongoing “unusual mortality event” in 2017.

Mothers and calves are the most vulnerable to boat collision deaths.

Functional Extinction

Functional extinction occurs when the population:

  1. no longer plays a significant role in the ecosystem


2. the population is no longer viable, the breeding population will not be able to sustain itself.

The North Atlantic Right Whale is moving the direction of the second.

They are long lived animals, or at least they used to be. Historically the whales could live up to 100 years. Research has revealed that females are living to an average of about 45 years and males are living to be 65.

This is resulting in a population imbalance that has detrimental effects. Females face more challenges than males associated with…



Alexandra Henning The Hysterical Historian

I write about politics, science, among other topics as the mood strikes through a historical lense.