In DepthMARINE CONSERVATION

North Atlantic right whale faces extinction

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Science  10 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6364, pp. 703-704
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6364.703

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Summary

In a sad reversal of fortune, the North Atlantic right whale is in deep trouble again after rebounding in recent decades from centuries of hunting. Recent population trends are so dire that experts say the whale could vanish within 20 years. At a meeting of the Society for Marine Mammalogy in Halifax, Canada, experts reported that roughly 100 reproductively mature females remain. They are not surviving long enough or reproducing quickly enough for the species to survive. Ship strikes have long been a threat, and fatal entanglements in commercial fishing gear are taking an increasing toll. Even when an entangled female doesn’t die, the gear she drags can exhaust her, making her less likely to reproduce. The range of Eubalaena glacialis, the North Atlantic right whale—is one of the most “industrialized” stretches of ocean in the world, crowded with threats including ships, fishing operations, and energy infrastructure and governments are not keeping up with implementing protective policies as the whales shift northward in the summer.