Endangered Right Whale Population Threatened

Roped WhaleHYANNIS – The most endangered large whale species in the Atlantic is threatened by increasing rates of lethal and debilitating entanglements and a 40 percent decline in birth rates since 2010.

About 500 North Atlantic right whales still survive after two decades, but the two new emerging trends are casting doubt on the species overall recovery.

That is the conclusion of a new study published in “Frontiers” by Dr. Scott Kraus with the New England Aquarium.

“It puts the picture together in a way that made us feel like the right whale future is not a rosy as we would like,” said Kraus.

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies also contributed to the study.

Since 1935, when right whales neared extinction, they have rebounded to about 295 living whales in 1992.

Then there was an increase to an estimated 500 right whales in 2010.

But the number of calves born each year has dropped dramatically in the following five years.

That can be attributed to entanglements that have caused long-term physical and reproductive health effects and prey species that have shifted due to climate and environmental changes.

Entanglements are now the most prevalent killer of whales at 85 percent from 2010 and 2015 compared to 15 percent of ship strikes.

The New England Aquarium has received a grant of $180,000 to fund research on the development of fishing ropes that can reduce whale deaths.

“No fisherman wants to kill whales and no whale really wants to encounter fishing gear, so that’s our goal and that’s where we have to be headed towards,” said Kraus.

By JUSTIN SAUNDERS, CapeCod.com Newscenter

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