Oct 30, 2023
The endangered right whale population has been in sharp decline for years, but some good news has emerged. The trend seems to have slowed.
From 2010 to 2020, the number of right whales found in the North Atlantic Ocean fell by 25%, down to only 364 whales by 2021. But a recent government count found 356 in total.
The study boosted the spirits of experts because it appears the whales’ sharp population decline over the past decade has slowed. Equal numbers of whales could add to the population as others die off, the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium told The Associated Press (AP) this week.
Right whales are the largest of their specific species. Only 70 actively reproducing females remain in the wild. That makes efforts to save the species harder. In 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the right whale to be part of an “unusual mortality event.” That means the whales began to die off faster than expected.
But 2021 was a strong year of right whale births. The consortium said 18 appear to have been born. Still, death rates remained high. The mammals are injured and often die from human activities. The most common causes of death are collisions with sea vessels and getting caught in fishing nets.
“The news is less bad than it has been. My heart is a little less heavy, but certainly not light or hopeful,” a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium told the AP. “It shouldn’t be dependent on the whales to give birth to enough calves to reverse what we’re doing to them.”
Reflect: What responsibilities do we have to ensure the well-being of endangered species, and how can we fulfill these responsibilities effectively?
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