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Globe Editorial

Right whales: Maine is for lovers

February 14, 2011

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IT’S A whale of a love story. Researchers at the New England Aquarium may have discovered the mating waters for many of the world’s 440 remaining North Atlantic right whales — an area 60 miles south of Bar Harbor, Maine. If continuing research confirms that this is where whales make whoopee, it will help federal officials protect the world’s most critically endangered large whale species — and one of the world’s most endangered mammals.

A whole series of fishing and shipping-lane precautions are already in place, including a recent mandate for commercial vessels to slow down to 10 knots in seasonal right whale waters from New England down to Georgia. This latter rule was adopted because up to three whales a year were being killed or seriously injured in ship strikes or entanglements — no small number for a species that produces just 22 calves a year.

The possible discovery of the mating waters will help better define seasonal waters and appropriate shipping lanes. New England Aquarium senior scientist Moe Brown said that fishermen and shippers who are complying with new laws should be credited “for taking this seriously and embracing an animal they probably never see.’’