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By: Sarah Sharkey
Since June, there have been 12 North Atlantic right whale deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and three more off the U.S. coast. Although that is only 15 deaths, that is actually 3 percent of the total population of these whales.
Jane Davenport, an attorney for the Defenders of Wildlife, said this about the string of deaths this year, “Everybody is running out of adjectives. It’s apocalyptic. It really is.”
The annual North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium in Halifax is where researchers release their population estimates for the year. In 2016 the population was tallied at 451. The 2017 number is expected to be even lower. Mark Baumgartner, a consortium chairman and researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, says that “2017 will be another year of decline.”
The number of North Atlantic right whales was already extremely small, but if things keep progressing this way we may be witnessing the extinction of a species. Earlier this month, the Defenders of Wildlife and three other conservation groups were forced to send a 60-day letter of intent to sue to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The claim is that they have failed to protect the whales from fishing gear and ship strikes, the leading causes of death for these whales.
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