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North Atlantic Right Whales Could Be Extinct In 20 Years, Scientists Warn

It’s been a devastating year for North Atlantic right whales. And now scientists are saying they won’t survive much longer if changes aren’t implemented soon.

The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium's annual meeting took place in Halifax on Sunday, just weeks after government scientists released findings from necropsies conducted following an unusually high number of deaths of the species.

At the time of the report, 15 whales had been found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and scientists made it clear that human activity was the primary cause of death for these whales — a fact they reiterated at this week’s meeting.

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“The sense of urgency for me is finding out that the population that's with us today, a lot of the breeding females may be gone in two decades. And that's a really short period of time for us to do something about this,” marine ecologist Mark Baumgartner from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution told CBC.

Today, there are less than 500 North Atlantic right whales left.

Between 2011 and 2015, 20 individual whales were lost every year, meaning all of the breeding females could be dead in about 21 years, if the trend continues, according to CBC.

Read More: What’s Causing The Deaths of North Atlantic Right Whales in the Atlantic Ocean?

“I really do think we only have a few years to make a difference here. The longer we wait, the harder this problem becomes for us to solve,” Baumgartner told CBC.

The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative’s (CWHC) report was prepared and released in partnership with the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on Oct. 5 following the increasing number of deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“We will continue to monitor the migration of the whales and the efficiency of our measures in order to act accordingly, based on evidence. We are committed to doing what is necessary to help keep our right whales from harm, and we are considering all options in order to protect this iconic species,” Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, said in a joint statement in response to the report.

Read More: A Rule to Keep Endangered Whales, Turtles Out of Nets Was Just Scrapped by the Trump Administration

“I think if nothing changes, and soon, we could see the extinction of this species within several decades. I think we can reverse this trend but it's going to take a lot of collaboration,” scientist Amy Knowlton, senior scientist at the New England Aquarium in Boston, told CBC.

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