Whales could be extinct in 20 years, U.S. officials say


  • North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest marine mammals in the world and also one of the most endangered of all large whales.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed that there are only about 450 left and 17 so far have died in 2017.
  • Federal government officials say that those endangered right whales could become extinct unless stern steps are taken to protect them.

North Atlantic right whales have endured a deadly year. If there will be no immediate action, the population won’t recover and face extinction soon, said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

The high mortality rate this year coincides with a year of poor reproduction. There are only around 100 breeding North Atlantic right female whales left.

Bullard said, “You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are. That’s something we can’t let happen.”

NOAA officials, including Bullard, made the statements during a Tuesday meeting of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council. Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for NOAA, said right whales number has been decreasing since 2010, with females mortality higher than males.

Murray-Brown said that U.S. and Canada must take action to curb the whales’ deaths caused by humans. Two often cited causes are vessel-strikes and fishing gear entanglement.

“The current status of the right whales is a critical situation, and using our available resources to recover right whales is of high importance and high urgency,” he added.

After the whales give birth in temperate southern waters, they migrate to Canada and New England to feed every spring and summer. Reported deaths this year were off of Canada and New England.

One scientific study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports stated that the whales travel around much more than originally thought. Some scientists have assumed that whales might be moving outside of protected areas to feed, making them vulnerable.

Last month, in another study published in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists examined the whale feces. They discovered whales that were entangled in fishing gear for a long time experienced high stress indicated by high hormone levels. Even when they survive entanglement, the stress affects their ability to reproduce.

“My colleagues are trying to find solutions so we can find out how they can continue to fish, but not entangle whales,” said a study co-author, Elizabeth Burgess, an associate scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

NOAA released a five-year review of right whales in October. The animals remain on the endangered list. Recommendations include developing a long-term plan for monitoring the population trends and habitat use. Studying the impact of commercial fishing on right whales was also included.

Source: ABC News

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