North Atlantic right whales are disappearing from the Earth's oceans.
According to the Associated Press, the critically endangered species' population hit a 20-year low in 2020. The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium recently announced that an estimated 336 North Atlantic right whales remain in the wild.
This is a drop from 2019's population count of 366, continuing a 10-year trend of the rare whale's numbers declining. The North Atlantic right whale has lost an estimated 30% of its population over the past decade, per Defenders of Wildlife.
North Atlantic right whales were once plentiful in the waters around New England, AP reports, but have fallen victim to commercial whaling, net entanglements, and ship collisions.
Conservationists felt hopeful in 2020 that the species might be rebounding a bit after spotting two healthy-looking whale calves. Unfortunately, the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium's 2020 population numbers do not support this optimism.
But even with this newly reported drop in the North Atlantic right whale population, the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium is confident there is a way to help this species rebound.
"No one engaged in right whale work believes that the species cannot recover from this. They absolutely can, if we stop killing them and allow them to allocate energy to finding food, mates, and habitats that aren't marred with deadly obstacles," Scott Kraus, chair of the consortium, told AP.
The consortium's North Atlantic right whale population estimate for 2020 has not yet been peer-reviewed, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Still, the government agency did note that "North Atlantic right whales are one of the most imperiled species on the planet, and the latest estimate shows that the substantial downward trajectory of right whale abundance documented over the last decade continues," per AP.