Southern right whales are indicators of ocean health because they are a long-living species that travels throughout the ocean.

“The cause of decline for a population is rarely singular,” said Dr. Michelle Barbieri, a veterinarian who has studied southern right whales and is currently studying Hawaiian monk seals with the Marine Mammal Center. It may be that the rise in whale mortality is caused by a combination of various factors. If such factors influence the health of the southern right whale, it is likely they influence other species as well. Research into mortalities of southern right whales form the backbone for understanding population health and decline,” she says.

In addition to reflecting ecosystem health, southern right whales are also important for the local town of Puerto Pirámides in Chubut Province, where a thriving whale watching industry is a source of tourism and revenue. Southern right whales visit Península Valdés from June to December each year to breed and nurse their young. During these months, tourists travel to Puerto Pirámides, which is the sole town on Península Valdés, for whale watching. Dr. Sironi said it's "one of the best places in the world to observe the species.”

Laws regulate the whale watching industry to reduce the impact of human activities on the whales and their habitat.  - By Jasjeet Dhanota