SOURCE: The Province

DATE: July 9, 2020

SNIP: North Atlantic right whales are now considered one step away from complete eradication.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is moving the whales from “endangered” to “critically endangered” on its red list of global species facing threats to their survival.

The only step beyond “critically endangered” is extinction.

Fewer than 250 mature whales were known to exist at the end of 2018, in a total population of only about 400.

More than 30 whales have been killed by ships or fishing gear entanglements in the last three years, two-thirds of them in Canadian waters.

The conservation group classified right whales as endangered in 2008, and since then the population has declined more than 15 per cent.

Sean Brillant, a senior conservation biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in Halifax, says the change in status is not surprising and should put even more pressure on governments in Canada and the United States to do more to stop these whales from being wiped out.

“We are an affluent country with an incredible amount of knowledge and resources, we have good controls over our oceans industry,” he said. “And we can’t figure this out? How embarrassing. We need to step up and solve this problem.”

The whales, which migrate along the eastern coast of North America, spend winters off Florida and Georgia before migrating north to New England and Atlantic Canada in the summer.

The whales are threatened by a combination of factors, including climate change, which appears to be driving them further north in the summer months to find food. Brillant said before 2017, surveys of the whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were limited, but when that work began in more detail, it was clear there were a lot of whales present in waters that opened them up to serious risk of being hit by big ships or tangled in fishing lines.