Scientists say the population of North Atlantic right whales could decline to levels not seen since 1990 in as few as 12 years.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which manages coastal fisheries, received an update on the status of the whales on Monday. The whales are among the most endangered marine mammals and are thought to number only about 437.
The population was only 268 in 1990 before it rebounded to a recent high of 481 around 2010. But the species has been hindered by poor reproduction and several years of high mortality since then.
Scientists say the species is jeopardized by entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes. No new calves have been born this year, leaving the species' future even more in doubt.
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