New documentary hopes to bring the plight of the North Atlantic right whale to a wider audience

By Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press on February 19, 2022.

A pair of North Atlantic right whales are seen feeding in this undated still image flyer from the film Last of the Right Whales. The documentary, which opens in Canadian theaters on February 20 to coincide with World Whale Day, shows the efforts of several groups and individuals to protect and restore populations of a dwindling whale species associated with attachment to lost fishing gear and ship collisions. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Last Right Pope, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

HALIFAX – There is no shortage of media coverage of the plight of the endangered North Atlantic right whale, but documentary filmmaker Nadine Pequeneza feels something is still missing in the fight to save the species.

“You can’t really appreciate something unless you at least see it and know it,” Pequeneza said this week ahead of the theatrical opening of his latest film, “Last of the Right Whales.”

“So we hope this film introduces people to the North Atlantic right whale, makes them aware of what’s at stake here.”

There are many risks. The US-based North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium reported in October that the species’ population fell to 336 in 2020, an eight percent drop from 2019, when the population was estimated at 366 animals. In fact, the species has been on a downward trend since 2011, when there were 481 whales, according to the consortium.

For Pequeneza, this documentary brings viewers closer to a mysterious animal and explores how humanity can be a part of the resurrection of the species.

“For most North Atlantic whales, the majority of deaths are not due to natural causes, but rather from human activities, shipping and fishing,” Toronto-based Pequeneza said in an interview. “Our hope is that we “ raise awareness about species and the threats they face and how we are responsible for the potential extinction of these species.”

“Last of the Right Whales” opens this weekend for screening in select Canadian theaters to coincide with World Whale Day on Sunday. This film documents the efforts of several groups and individuals to protect and restore dwindling populations of whale species injured by gear entanglement and ship collisions.

This month, Oceana Canada asked the federal government to impose mandatory speed limits on the Cabot Strait, between Cape Breton and Newfoundland, to prevent ship attacks as right-wing whales migrate to feeding grounds in St. Bay. Lawrence.

Climate change is pushing the zooplankton that whales feed on into colder waters off Canada’s east coast and carrying animals further north. Oceana also noted that since 2017, 21 whales have died in Canadian waters, and at least eight of those deaths have resulted from collisions with ships.

Viewers were shown the realities of what this species faced, including the new entanglement of a young male right-hand whale and a necropsy performed on the beach after a whale was hit and killed by a boat.

One of the characters featured in the documentary, Canadian Whale Institute researcher Moira Brown, said in a recent interview that the film allows viewers to see not only the obstacles facing the species but also the dedicated group of people trying to reverse the damage. which has been done.

“There’s just been a tremendous effort to work together to try and solve this problem,” Brown said. “It’s hard to watch how these animals suffer, but I think we’ve made some progress since 2017 and 2019…. I think it’s also a demonstration of how humans can turn things around.”

Another key character in this documentary is Nick Hawkins, a wildlife cameraman and photojournalist. In the film, Pequeneza follows Hawkins as he tries to give people a clearer view of the species through his photography.

“I really felt that there was a huge gap between the technical knowledge gathered by researchers and the general public, so I started looking for ways to fill that gap,” Hawkins said in the documentary.

He echoed the sentiment during a recent interview, saying he hopes the film and his own work help connect people with the right whale experience.

“There’s very little good footage and good pictures of the North Atlantic right whale,” Hawkins said. “We are gradually building up and trying to take this issue out there…. It will take a lot of effort and a lot of continued attention on this issue for us to change the future of the species.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published February 19, 2022.

This story was produced with financial assistance from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.


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