World Animal Day - Right Whales

On World Animal Day (October 4th) this year we want to talk about the right whales. Some of the most endangered species of whales in the world, largely due to over hunting these whales in the past.

That was a talk from one of our favourite wildlife photographers, who went diving with the incredible, then newly discovered species of southern right whales.

The Right Whales

There are currently 3 known, and recognised sub species of right whales, also known as black whales. The subspecies are:

  • The North Atlantic Right Whales
  • The North Pacific Right Whales
  • The Southern Right Whales

The right whales get their name from historical whalers, that deemed them the 'right' whales to hunt. They are notoriously slow swimmers living close to the shores, making them easy targets, plus their large size provided a wealth of oil and meat.


These whales are mostly black with white markings along their sides, no dorsal fin, but very large pectoral fins. Their heads are typically covered in white callosities which are covered in whale lice. Divers that have been lucky enough to spend time with these whales have described their eyes as "soulful". 

matixarenas photograph of right whales

| Photograph from @matixarenas on Instagram

Learning More About Right Whales

Here are some of our favourite, as well as some very important facts about right whales:

  1. They live in very specific parts of the ocean, as these whales do not like extreme temperatures, so they can generally only be found in moderate climates, not too cold, not too hot.

  2. Typically the female right whales will be a little bit longer than the males, although due to their huge sizes it can be hard to see the difference just through casual observations.

  3. Right whales are baleen whales, meaning they get their food by using their "comblike strainer of baleen plates and bristles" ³ to capture their food as they swim along.

  4. The diet of the right whales consists of copepods (which are small crustaceans), krill and pteropods. 

  5. It takes female right whales 10 years to become sexually mature, and each pregnancy produces just a single calf after 1 year of gestation. This means that their population growth rate can be very slow, so it is important to protect every individual member.

  6. Researcher have used the ear wax from deceased North Atlantic Right Whales to find out their age. They estimate that the average life span of these whales is 70 years old.

  7. The callosities found on right whales heads are unique to each individual whale. These white patches can be used to identify specific right whales for researchers or whale watchers.

  8. The North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered species of whale in the world, despite being granted protection back in the 1930s they have shown no signs of recovering. With their current population estimated to be as low as under 100 individuals.

  9. The North Pacific Right Whales live in the north pacific ocean, it is believed that they spend the summer in far northern feeding grounds and migrate south to warmer waters during the winter.

Image of Right Whales by matixarenas on Instagram

| Photograph from @matixarenas on Instagram

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1] BC Cetacean Sightings Network - Right Whales

2] Our Breathing PlanetRight Whale

3] National Geographic - Right Whales

4] NOAA - North Atlantic Right Whales

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