Newswise — Late each summer in the coastal waters between Maine and Canada, much of the endangered North Atlantic right whale population swims into the Bay of Fundy to feed. Numbering fewer than 350, these 40 to 50 ton whales share the busy Bay of Fundy waters with fishing boats, marine research vessels, and the shipping industry. One might expect differences among these groups, but here Irving Oil, the region's largest refining and marketing company, works in a unique partnership with whale scientists from the New England Aquarium to enhance the right whales' survival prospects.

The New England Aquarium announced today it has named Irving as its Founding Corporate Research Partner for the protection of the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Since 1998, Irving has been actively involved in efforts to protect right whales, supporting research and partnering with scientists from the New England Aquarium, as well as governmental officials, fisherman and environmentalists in the United States and Canada.

Scott Kraus, the New England Aquarium's Vice-President for Research said, "We are pleased and proud to honor Irving Oil for their genuine commitment and dedication in protecting North Atlantic right whales. Irving's involvement has included not only ongoing financial support, but the significant investment of senior staff time, and most importantly leadership in the shipping and business communities. That leadership has been instrumental in getting all parties to recognize that the efforts to better protect right whales are in everyone's self-interest."

Kraus added, "Some skeptics might assume that whale scientists and a major oil company could only be adversaries. In fact, Irving has been one of our greatest allies and supporters. We both want to protect right whales, and scientists and business people do share a practical, problem solving approach. We first had to get to know each other. Over the years, New England Aquarium scientists have learned first-hand about shipping operations, and Irving officials have seen feeding right whales up close. Together, Irving and the New England Aquarium have demonstrated a willingness and strong capability to find practical, science-based solutions to problems facing right whales."

One such problem was the potential for a right whale/ship collisions in the Bay of Fundy, where one of the right whales' most popular feeding grounds overlapped with the established shipping lanes.

John Logan, a senior manager at Irving, was asked to investigate how his company might help preserve the right whale population since it employs the largest shipping fleet in the Bay of Fundy. Logan said, "We are proud to have played a crucial role in supporting the changing of the shipping lanes in July 2003, which moved ships farther away from the world's most endangered whales. One year after the shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy were shifted away from the feeding grounds, the probability of a ship/whale accident was reduced by about 95 percent."

This move marked the first time shipping lanes were altered to protect an endangered species. Over the last decade, ship collisions have been responsible for about 40 percent of all known North Atlantic right whale deaths.

Moira Brown, a senior right whale scientist with the Aquarium, recalled a right whale survivor story with a happy ending, "The poster whale for this effort is a 13 year right whale named Calvin who was orphaned in 1992 when her mother Delilah died in a shipping accident. In 2005, Calvin is in the Bay of Fundy with her first calf, a much safer Bay of Fundy for right whales now that ships no longer transit the high density whale feeding area east of Grand Manan Island."

Brown noted, "The cooperation of the shipping industry was critical in negotiating the shipping lane relocation. The partnership is unique because it was done with the best interest of the right whales in mind. There was no legislation requiring industry to participate in conservation measures to protect right whales, but when Irving learned of the threat to right whales they took the lead."

The skeleton and a model of Delilah now hang in the New Brunswick Museum while her legacy is quietly continued by her daughter Calvin and a yet to be named grand calf, a calf whose chance of survival to adulthood has been greatly improved by the collaborative efforts of Irving and the New England Aquarium.

To make the public more aware of the challenges facing right whales, Irving and the New England Aquarium are working together on an education campaign this autumn. Irving Oil will be distributing right whale stickers, posters, and bookmarks in its Bluecanoe and Mainway convenience stores throughout Atlantic Canada and New England. In addition, educators from the New England Aquarium will conduct its popular "right whale day" in schools in Portsmouth, N.H., South Portland, ME, and Saint John, New Brunswick. The centerpiece of the school presentations will be a life-sized, 55-foot, inflatable right whale as well as numerous exhibits.

Right whales spend most of their lives in the waters off of New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. These whales have teetered on the brink of extinction for over a century and are truly one of the great and unique animals of this region. Irving and the New England Aquarium look forward to continuing their work together for the protection of right whales.

About the New England AquariumLocated on the Boston waterfront, the New England Aquarium is one of the most prominent and popular aquariums in the United States. Its mission is "to present, promote, and protect the world of water." Beyond its exhibit halls, the Aquarium is also a leading ocean conservation organization with research scientists working around the globe and biologists rescuing stranded marine animals in New England.

About Irving OilFounded in 1924, Irving Oil is the regional energy processing, transporting, and marketing company focusing on customer service and supply chain management. Irving Oil serves customers in Eastern Canada, Quebec, and New England with a range of finished energy products, including gasoline, diesel, home heating fuel, jet fuel and complementary products and services. The company's network of Bluecanoe and Mainway convenience stores throughout Eastern Canada and New England offer customers a wide variety of products and services, including grocery and snack items, bakeries, and convenience items, in addition to fuel.