BOSTON -- Time to save North Atlantic right whales is running out even faster than feared. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Monday that the population of the critically endangered species has dwindled to 366 -- nearly 40 whales lower than recent population estimates.
North Atlantic right whales swim and forage off the coast of New England much of the year and migrate south to calving grounds off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida during the late fall. Fishing gear entanglements and vessel strikes cause the most right whale deaths and have brought the species to the verge of extinction. In the last two weeks, researchers have spotted two different right whales entangled in fishing gear in American waters.
Despite these ongoing threats, NOAA needs to do more to protect the whales, including implementing commonsense measures, such as seasonal closure of right whale habitats to fishing, funding the development and implementation of ropeless fishing gear, and funding increased monitoring of the whales.
Michaela Morris, Oceans Associate with Environment America Research & Policy Center, issued the following statement:
“For centuries, people along the Atlantic Coast have marveled at right whales. It’s distressing to think that we may be the last generation to witness them.
“Federal judges have ordered NOAA to issue a rule to protect right whales from entanglements by May 2021. We encourage the public to share their concerns once the comment period opens. Together, we can demand better protections for a majestic species we don’t want to see die off.”