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Right Whale: Extinction of North Atlantic Species Imminent, Experts Say

Image: Right Whale: Extinction of North Atlantic Species Imminent, Experts Say

In a 2009 file photo, a female North Atlantic right whale swims at the surface of the water with her calf a few miles off the Georgia coast in 2009. (AP Photo/Savannah Morning News, John Carrington, File)

By    |   Monday, 11 Dec 2017 04:58 PM

The North Atlantic right whale now faces extinction despite being on the protected species list, with only 100 breeding females left and a declining birth rate. 

The whales have been targeted by whaling ships for decades but are now protected as an endangered species. Still, they are beginning to migrate further north where they risk getting tangled in fishing nets or traps as well as colliding with a boat, Newsweek reported.

The low population also increases the risk of inbreeding, which can cause genetic abnormalities and further harm the genetic diversity — and fertility — of the species, Newsweek noted.

Toxins, chemical pollution, and poor nutrition also contributed the population decline.

Experts predict North Atlantic right whales could die off within 20 years; if that occurs, it would be the first great whale species to go extinct in modern times.

“It’s going to take a bold effort on the part of everyone involved” to keep the species from going extinct, University of North Carolina Wilmington functional morphologist Ann Pabst said, Science reported. “We have to redouble our efforts.” 

The whales breed off the coast of Florida in winter and migrate north to New England and northeastern Canada in summer, Science reported. Increased fishing in areas where whales swim and the northern migration pattern have led to greater numbers of entanglements in fishing lines, which sometimes lead to death and other times can exhaust breeding females so they don’t reproduce often enough. 

Although there are ways to lessen entanglement, most require special equipment like weaker ropes and electronic traps that fishermen can’t afford to implement, Science reported.  

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The extinction of North Atlantic right whales could happen within the next 20 years, experts say, since only 100 breeding females are left.
right whale, extinction, imminent, north atlantic
Monday, 11 Dec 2017 04:58 PM
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