The Senate Appropriations Committee has just approved $5 million in funding for the protection of North Atlantic Right Whales.
The total is an increase of more than $2 million over last year. These iconic whales are at a critical crossroads in the survival of their species and need a variety of different conservation measures to stave off extinction. Researchers reported last month that the current population is around 366 individuals, which is 11 percent lower than previous estimates.
Right whales are the rarest of all large whales. There are several species, but all are identified by enormous heads, which can measure up to one-third of their total body length.
Highlighting the danger to these majestic animals, researchers have spotted two different right whales in the last month entangled in fishing gear in American waters.
“It’s great to see our senators stepping up to protect this incredible species.” said Environment America Oceans Associate Michaela Morris. “For centuries, people along the Atlantic Coast have marveled at right whales. We must make sure that we aren’t the last generation to witness them.”
Right whales were named by whalers who identified them as the “right” whale to kill on a hunt. These leviathans had enormous value for their plentiful oil and baleen, which were used for corsets, buggy whips, and other contrivances. Because of their thick blubber, right whales also float accommodatingly after they have been killed. Populations of these whales were decimated during the whaling heydays of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. During this period they came close to extinction.
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