Endangered whale's decline slows


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The decline of an endangered species of whale reduced last year and lost about 2% of its population, but scientists warn the animal still has existential threats and is losing females too fast.

The North Atlantic right whale's population was more than 480 in 2010 and fell by more than 25% over the following decade. The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, a group of scientists, government officials, and industry members, said Monday that the population fell to about 340 last year.

“The reality is we are still seeing unsustainable levels of human impacts on the species,” said Heather Pettis, a research scientist in the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life and executive administrator of the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium. “We're still injuring these animals to a point where it's not just about survival. It's about health, it's about reproduction.”

The whales have been listed in Endangered Species Act for more than 50 years but have been slow to recover. The population was even lower in 1990 when it was 264, Pettis said. One of the biggest challenges facing the right whales today is that the number of female whales that are capable of breeding seems to be falling.