Emergency steps needed to save right whale from extinction, experts say

The North Atlantic right whale could face extinction within the next century, according to marine scientists writing in the journal Science. Only about 350 right whales are alive today, and the researchers estimate that their deaths may be underreported by up to 83 percent yearly. The scientists say at least eight right whales have died in the past 16 months, almost three times the average yearly rate observed over the past quarter-century. At least half of right-whale deaths are caused by humans, as the animals are struck by ships or entangled in fishing gear. The scientists are calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to impose emergency restrictions on ship speeds and floating fishing lines. “We can’t wait to deal with a bureaucratic maze,” said Amy Knowlton of the New England Aquarium, one of the article’s 18 coauthors. But NMFS is resistant to calls for emergency action, saying new rules to protect the whales are in the works.