Right whales facing extinction after 17 die this year, scientists say

Scientists are raising a red flag over the future of endangered right whales after a high number died in 2017.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that there are only about 450 North Atlantic right whales left after 17 were reported dead this year, according to Phys.org. And the news of such high mortality was exacerbated by a low number in births in 2017.

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A Southern right whale off the shore of Argentina's Patagonian village of Puerto Piramides in 2009. (REUTERS/Maxi Jonas)

Per the Guardian, there are only about 100 breeding female whales active in the species, making the fear of extinction all the more real.

"You do have to use the extinction word, because that's where the trend lines say they are," says John Bullard, NOAA’s Northeast Regional Administrator. "That's something we can't let happen."

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Along with the low number of breeding females, a study published in Endangered Species Research suggests that entrapment in fishing lines spikes stress levels in males, reducing their ability to reproduce.

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