Down to the last 336 North Atlantic right whales

The tale of a whale sticks out of the water
North Atlantic right whale, photo: Korinoxe via Canva

Numbers of North Atlantic Right whales are reaching new lows, ocean conservation organization Oceana said. Oceana called on Canadian and American authorities to take immediate steps to prevent North Atlantic right whale extinction. 

According to the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, only 336 North Atlantic right whales are left in the wild. The population dropped 8%; in 2019, there were 366 North Atlantic right whales.  

Between 2014 and 2018, the average whale mortality was 27.4 whales a year, Oceana said. 

Oceana called on America’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans body and Transport Canada to act immediately “to save these whales from extinction.”  

In a statement, Oceana’s Whitney Webber said there was “zero time to waste” in attempting to reverse the “downward trajectory”. 

“Oceana calls on the US government to act now before these whales disappear from our coasts forever,” she added. 

Oceana has already criticized the US government for doing too little to save North Atlantic right whales. It has also blamed speeding ships and fishing gear for North Atlantic right whale deaths. 

Earlier this month, Oceana said it had taken legal action against the US government to seek proper protection for the whales. 

The new population estimate “underscores just how critical it is that Canada continues to create strong, mandatory measures to protect North Atlantic right whales,” said Kim Elmslie of Oceana’s Canadian arm. 

Once, there were 21,000 North Atlantic right whales in the world, but in the early 20th century, the animals were hunted close to extinction. By the 1920s, there were only around 100 North Atlantic right whales remaining.

In 1935, hunting North Atlantic right whales was banned. Their number went up to 438 whales, but the progress has since been reversed with now, only 336 whales remaining.

North Atlantic right whales are listed as “critically endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List; the next category is “extinct in the wild”.

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