In DepthEndangered Species

Surge in right whale deaths raises alarms

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Science  25 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6353, pp. 740-741
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6353.740

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The highly endangered North Atlantic right whale is having its worst year in decades. At least 13 of the whales—out of a population thought to be only about 450—have died this year, most of them during the past 2 months in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence off Canada’s eastern coast. At least three appear to have been hit by ships, and one perished after becoming entangled in fishing gear. In a bid to prevent more losses, Canadian officials have imposed new restrictions on shipping and fishing until the whales migrate south later this year. In September, Canadian officials plan to start consulting with the fishing and shipping industries about what to do next. Some scientists speculate that the whales are looking for new sources of food, perhaps driven north by warming seas. Others are testing underwater gliders equipped with sound sensors that can detect right whales, part of a system that could send alerts to nearby ships.