Right Whales Grow Ever Closer to Extinction

Jul 21, 2023

6 Interesting Facts about North Atlantic Right Whales

Right whales living in the North Atlantic Ocean near the US and Canada are in greater danger of dying out than we thought, according to new studies. 

Right whales are the biggest of their specific species, but scientists say there are fewer than 340 left. Out of these, only 70 are females that can still have babies. This makes their situation even more serious. 

In 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found something strange. They said that the right whale was part of an "unusual mortality event." This means that the whales started to die off unexpectedly.  

Last week, NOAA estimated that 114 whales have died or been seriously injured since 2017. That is 16 more whales than estimated earlier this year. The NOAA made this estimate using pictures from planes and drones, as well as surveys with researchers. 

Scientists say the main reason for the whales' decline is human activity in the Atlantic. Whales often bump into fast boats or get stuck in fishing gear. These injuries can last for years. They also make it harder for the whales to reproduce and survive. Officials have pushed for stricter laws, but the fishing industry has pushed back. 

The massive whales can grow to 50 feet long and weigh up to 150,000 pounds. But they have been getting smaller as they face more danger from humans. 

These whales have their babies near the coasts of Florida and Georgia. They usually feed near New England and Canada. The government gave these whales protections years ago under the Endangered Species Act. In December, officials decided those protections will stay. 

Reflect: Why is it important to understand and keep track of the status of endangered species?

If a reader wanted to learn how many right whales remain in the wild and their primary threats, he or she would reference _______. (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. the article only
b. the infographic only
c. the article and the infographic
d. neither the article nor the infographic
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