US federal authorities are signaling that it is time to consider the possibility of right whales disappearing without prompt action to protect the threatened species.
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world, and has had a deadly year.
The US Oceanic and Atmospheric Observing Agency (NOAA) counts just 450 of these whales and 17 of them have died so far this year.
The situation is so critical that both Canadian and American government officials must realize that without their immediate intervention, the right whale population will not be able to recover, “says NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard.
Mark Murray-Brown, an adviser to NOAA on endangered species, says right whales have been in sharp decline since 2010, and females are hardest hit.
He insists on the urgency to act, while the high death rate of 2017 coincides with a year of low reproduction. Only one hundred females of calf-bearing age remain.
“You have to use the word” disappearance “because that’s what the trend lines indicate, Bullard says. It’s something we can not let happen. ”
Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing nets are two of the most frequently cited causes of carcass discoveries.
Off Canada and New England
Right whales give birth in temperate southern waters before heading to Canada and the US state of New England each spring and summer for food. All deaths this year have occurred off Canada and New England.
A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports of Nature indicates that whales travel more than we thought, leaving the protected areas in search of food.
In another study published last month in the journal Endangered Species Research , scientists have indicated that the stress of prolonged entanglement in fishing gear is affecting the ability of whales to reproduce.