Researchers and ocean life advocates express deep concern as the North Atlantic Right Whale drops its population nearly 10% last year.
The North Atlantic right whale which is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world numbered only 366 in 2019, had its population fell to 336 in 2020, the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium said. The species has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1970.
Before the commercial whaling era, these whales, which can weigh 135,000 pounds (61,235 kilos) were bountiful in the waters off New England. The species' population first declined because of aggressive hunting due to their high concentrations of oil.
"The new population and mortality estimates for North Atlantic right whales are upsetting and alarming," said Whitney Webber, campaign director at Oceana in the United States, in a statement. "Losing nearly 10% of a critically endangered species in one year is drastic and should be a wake-up call that the situation facing these whales is more dire and urgent than ever before."
Conservationists have been focusing on the conservation of these right whales. Recently, several efforts made to save the whales have resulted in new provisions on U.S. lobster fishing, and pushback from the fishing industry about those new rules.
"We as humans have put these whales in the predicament they are in, and we have the ability to help them out of it," said Heather Pettis, associate scientist in the New England Aquarium's Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life and executive administrator of the consortium. "Broad collaboration and a long-term commitment to ensuring this species' survival is required and urgent actions to prevent entanglements and collisions with vessels must be implemented."
"No one engaged in right whale work believes that the species cannot recover from this. They absolutely can, if we stop killing them and allow them to allocate energy to finding food, mates and habitats that aren’t marred with deadly obstacles.” said Scott Kraus, chair of the consortium.