Science & Nature

North Atlantic Right Whale Population Continuing to Decline

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A new estimate from the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium was released this week and the news ain’t exactly good.

Every October, the consortium releases a preview of its annual report card on the status of right whales, one of the most endangered large whales in the world.

The estimate finds that the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale population has dropped 2.3%, from 348 in 2020 to 340 in 2021.

According to Heather Pettis, research scientist in the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life and executive administrator of the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium:

“While it is certainly good to see the slope of the trajectory slow, the unfortunate reality is that the species continues to trend downward, with fewer than 350 individuals alive in 2021.”

This year’s estimate precedes the consortium’s annual meeting and confirms the dire situation facing North Atlantic right whales, according to ocean advocacy organization Oceana:

“With the release of these new estimates, Oceana is urgently calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Transport Canada to take immediate action to save these whales from extinction.”

Gib Brogan, campaign director at Oceana in the United States, said:

“Every year that passes without meaningful government action is devastating for the survival of North Atlantic right whales. Fisheries, politicians, and the U.S. government need to work together to enact solutions to save this critically endangered species from inching closer to extinction. Given the inadequate safeguards that are in place, the new population and mortality estimates for North Atlantic right whales are sadly predictable and frustrating. As we have consistently done in the past and do again today, we’re calling on the federal government to step in and establish real protections for these whales and create an actionable plan with solutions to help fisheries continue to thrive — both are possible.”

While Kim Elmslie, campaign director at Oceana Canada, added:

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“Another year of population decline is devastating for critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. To save this species from extinction caused by human activity, the Canadian government must urgently transition to a permanent, predictable, and transparent approach that can adapt to changing circumstances. We must prioritize their protection before it’s too late and find ways for humans and marine life to coexist.”

For more info about the report, go to the New England Aquarium’s website.

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