Research Publication

Assessing North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) welfare

By Katherine King, Melissa Joblon, Kerry McNally, Leigh Clayton, Heather Pettis, Peter Corkeron, Felicia Nutter

Originally published in Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens in December 2021



Welfare assessments have been largely successful in improving management and quality of life for animals in human care. This has prompted an increased interest in their use for free-ranging wild animals to assess health, environment, and human-induced impacts that influence policy decisions. The North Atlantic Right Whale (NARW, Eubalaena glacialis) is one of the most endangered whale species. NARWs constantly face serious injuries and mortalities due to human activities, which poses both a species conservation and an individual welfare concern. Establishing a standardized welfare assessment for the NARW is a holistic way to understand the cumulative effects of anthropogenic activities at both the individual and population levels. To investigate the potential use of welfare assessments in NARWs, we performed a brief literature review to explore the history and utility of animal welfare assessments. Following the review, we developed a welfare assessment tool specific to the NARW. The goal is for biologists to apply this tool to understand NARW welfare in conjunction with research in the field. Ultimately, the information gained from this review can aid in public dissemination of the results of human impacts on NARW welfare and may help influence future conservation policies.

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Affiliated Authors
  • Heather Pettis

    Heather Pettis, Research Scientist, Kraus Marine Mammal Conservation Program, Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life

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