Monday, 20 November 2017

The North Atlantic right whale faces extinction

By Elizabeth PennisiNov. 7, 2017 , 5:40 PM

HALIFAX, CANADA—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 predict the whale could vanish within 20 years, making it the first great whale to go extinct in modern times.

At a meeting of the Society for Marine Mammalogy here last month, whale experts reported that roughly 100 reproductively mature females remain, but they are not living 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. And researchers have found that even when an entangled female doesn’t die, dragging ropes, buoys, or traps can exhaust her, making her less likely to reproduce.

“It’s going to take a bold effort on the part of everyone involved” to save the species, says Ann Pabst, a functional morphologist at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. “We have to redouble our efforts.”

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