Whales and humans have had a very delicate relationship with one another over the centuries; and it was only until recently that we finally started ensuring their protection.
But it still might have been too little, too late for the North Atlantic right whale.
In 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated that these whales experienced a highly “unusual mortality event,” where 17 individual right whales were found dead off the coasts of New England and Canada.
Right now, there are only 450 of these critically endangered whales left in the world, which makes them part of our planet’s rarest marine animals.
According to experts, these whales will likely face their own extinction in the next 20 years if something more isn’t done to help them recover their populations.
“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said. “That’s something we can’t let happen.”
A five-year review was done to take a deeper look into the overall population health of North Atlantic right whales, and what was discovered was that they were experiencing a very low rate of reproduction, longer times between reproductions, declining population abundance, continued human-caused deaths, changes in food availability, and an increase in leaving their normal habitat areas.
When all of these things are considered, there is almost nothing that is going positively for these incredibly rare creatures and their future on earth.
“The current status of the right whales is a critical situation, and using our available resources to recover right whales is of high importance and high urgency,” Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for NOAA, said.
There are estimated to be only around 100 female right whales left that are capable of breeding, and they are having increasingly negative encounters with commercial fishing vessels.
Six of the 17 whales that were killed in 2017 were killed by blunt-force trauma, likely from being struck by fishing boats.
If the North Atlantic right whale is going to see its species continue to survive on earth, commercial fishing methods need to continue to change. But luckily, there have already been changes in the past decade that have had a positive impact on whales in general.
“We recognize and appreciate that the fishing industry has made many sacrifices to drastically reduce the number of lines in the water column, reducing the risk of serious injuries and mortalities to whales,” said Murray-Brown in his North Atlantic Right Whale 5-Year Review presentation.
As people make strides towards ensuring these incredible whales can avoid extinction, we need to guarantee that commercial fishing holds up its end of the bargain and actually follows through with making the ocean as safe as possible.
To see how you can help make a difference for whales, check out the information below.
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