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Experts call surge in right whale deaths 'apocalyptic'

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 4:30 PM - Another North Atlantic right whale has been found dead in Cape Cod, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reports.

It's the 16th death this year compared with five known births. The surge in deaths has experts alarmed, given there are only about 450 right whales left in the world.

Defenders of Wildlife lawyer Jane Davenport told the Cape Cod Times "everybody is running out of adjectives,” to describe the dire situation. “It’s apocalyptic. It really is.”

Given the current trajectory, scientists say the whales could be extinct within two decades.

"With this 16th confirmed mortality, the North Atlantic right whale population has experienced an alarming number of deaths in 2017," IFAW says in a statement.

"Time is of the essence and we must work together to determine how to best protect this critically endangered species."

Researchers met in Halifax, NS over the weekend to discuss next steps. Another group is slated to meet next month in hopes of reducing the number of deaths.

Right whales were once hunted to near extinction. Numbers have been slow to rebound since the the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986.

Human activity - mainly, collisions with ships - is one cause of right whale deaths. The Canadian government is taking steps to protect the species, including collecting long-term data on population trends.

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