The Falkland Islands and South Atlantic
SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE- Eubalaena australis

SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE- Eubalaena australis

Eubalaena 'True whale', australis 'southern'

Family Balaenidae, baleen whales characterised by their robust body, no dorsal fin, lack of ventral mouth pleats and very long, narrow, finely meshed baleen.

Length: Grows up to 17m (around 56 ft), males being slightly shorter than females. They weigh up to 90,000kg (200,000lb).

The huge head makes up a quarter of their body length, and has an arched mouth line, very long baleen and distinctive prominent callosities, the abundance and large size of these thought to be the only feature that distinguishes it from the Northern Right Whale. These whales are black with white ventral patches, no dorsal fin and wide black triangular flukes. The blow is V shaped and flukes are raised when diving.

Food is mostly copepods, but sometimes krill; they feed by skimming through areas of planktonic soup with an open mouth filtering the prey through their baleen.

Females give birth to a calf every 3-5 years after a gestation of about 12 months. They are thought to live up to 70 years. Southern Right Whales are circumpolar in the southern ocean.

When the Northern Right Whales were depleted, (they were almost extinct by 1750) particularly American whalers turned their attention to the southern hemisphere and were operating there commercially before the end of the 18th century. Southern Right Whales were very likely the main quarry of the early whalers in Falkland’s waters. They came in close to shore, were docile and tame, big and fat, and floated when killed. This led them to being hunted to near extinction by 1937.

The Southern Right Whale is protected throughout its range. It is hoped that populations are slowly recovering. There are encouraging sightings around the Falklands with infrequent records of them in enclosed bays and harbours and coastal waters. (White et. al). Their IUCN Conservation status is 'Lower risk- conservation dependent'.

In the Falklands the Southern Right whale is classed as a 'regular' cetacean. The Falkland Islands Marine Mammals Ordinance 1992 protects all marine mammals in all waters from the coast to the edge of the economic exclusion zone.


Sources include: Sea Mammals of the World-Randall R. Reeves, Brent S. Steware, Phillip J Clapham, James A Powell,Falkland Islands State of the Environment Report 2008 Otley H, Munro G, Clausen A, Ingham B. Wikipedia The World's Whales-Minasian, Balcomb lll, Foster, A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife- Hadoram Shirihai
Photographic credits: wildestanimal/
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