20 right whales have been killed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence since 2017. That’s 20 whales of a population of only 400. Canadian right whales are endangered and well on their way to extinction. However, the worse part of this is that scientists are now saying that these deaths could have been avoided. 

In 2019, seven right whales have been born. Unfortunately, eight right whales have also been reported dead this year. The eight dead right whales were found in the Gulf between June 4 and July 19. Most deaths caused by ship strikes and fishing gear. This is following an entire year with no reported deaths in 2018.

Joann Hamilton-Barry, the author of The North Atlantic Right Whale: Past, Present, and Future, explained to CBC that it is possible that North Atlantic right whales could go extinct by 2040. Though there are regulations in place to reduce the speed of ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the penalty is low enough that some shipping companies may opt to get fined rather than slowing down, said Hamilton-Barry.

According to The Coast, the threat to the right whale population is not new. In fact, it dates back centuries. Right whales got their name because they were considered the “right whale” to hunt on account of their tendency to swim close to the surface of the water and their huge amounts of blubber. In the '70s, scientists actually didn’t know if there were any right whales left, but a decade later a group was found.

Luckily, commercial whaling was banned in 1986. Though purposeful efforts to kill the species stopped, the threat to right whales didn’t end there. Ship strikes and entanglement were still (and are still) a huge issue.

The Coast explains that no one was prepared for this year’s eight deaths, but that we absolutely could have been. In 2017, emergency regulations were put in place and led to a death-free year in 2018. Now, one year later, the regulations have been amended after consulting with the fishing and shipping industries. As of now, this year has seen eight deaths and there are still five months left.

These creatures are going extinct before our eyes. They are dying quicker than they are being born, and we have hard proof that strict regulations can make a difference. In regards to what we can do as individuals, Hamilton-Barry offered CBC News some guidance. She explained that basic efforts like picking up garbage on the beach can help. She says that being prepared to pay more for seafood so that fishing companies can change their practices is helpful, as well. 

It's not a quick fix, but every effort counts. Do your research, stay informed, and support companies that are working to protect sea creatures, even if it means spending a little extra. Let's fight for a death-free 2020! 

There are stories everywhere. If you spot a newsworthy event in your city, send us a message, photo, or video @NarcityCanada on Twitter and Instagram.

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