The International Union for Conservation (IUCN) has uplisted the North Atlantic Right Whales from endangered to critically endangered. This move now raises concern about the possible extinction of these whales. The Right Whales have for a long time been listed as an endangered species in a bid to lobby authorities for protection. However, the state of care for the whales has not changed, pushing the species to the brink of extinction.

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The uplisting follows the sad news concerning the death of a Right Whale calf. The calf was one of the only 10 Right Whale calves born during the last calving season. According to NOAA, the calf was killed by a vessel strike on the coast of New Jersey.

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IUCN updates its Red List of threatened species every year. According to the organization, overwhelming scientific evidence now shows that the Right Whales are dying at an alarming rate because of humans. The main causes of death include vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Despite the listing of these Right Whales as endangered species previously, they have continued to be killed by human actions. IUCN now hopes that by listing the whales as critically endangered, more efforts will be geared toward their protection.

Since 2017, over 31 deaths of Right Whales were reported. Additionally, more than 10 Right Whales were reported as having serious injuries. Such a large number of dead and injured whales brought a sharp focus on the declining population of the Right Whales. Today, there are less than 400 existing right whales, and conservation groups are sounding an alarm over the state of this endangered species.

Scientists warn that if the Right Whales are not protected, the situation will be irreversible within a decade. Conservationists are now lobbying governments to enhance the protection of the remaining whales. The NRDC has proposed establishing a Right Whales conservation act and advises that governments put in place legislation that will end the killing of the whales by vessel strikes.



Image via Allison Henry/NOAA