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Endangered Blue Whale Survival in the North Atlantic: Lagging Scientific and Governance Responses, Charting Future Courses

In: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
Authors:
Olga Koubrak Research Associate, Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7021-5547
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David L. VanderZwaag Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Ocean Law and Governance, Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4860-2612
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Boris Worm Killam Research Professor, Department of Biology and Ocean Frontier Institute, Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5742-8716
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Abstract

Populations of blue whales were heavily depleted across the globe by industrial whaling and are still considered globally endangered today. In the Northwest Atlantic, an estimated 400–600 individuals remain, but these numbers are highly uncertain. Ship strikes, fishing gear entanglement, and marine debris are thought to be leading causes of contemporary human-caused mortality in blue whales, with anthropogenic noise possibly causing sublethal stress and injury. Climate change is recognised as an emerging and intensifying threat that is likely to affect food supply and could limit the capacity of the population to recover. Both Canada and the United States have protected blue whales through their domestic legislation. This article reviews law and policy responses in the two countries, as well as bilateral, regional and international frameworks that address anthropogenic threats to blue whales. Future scientific directions, as well as recommendations for improvements to domestic legislation and multilevel cooperation are outlined.

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