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Rarely do we truly perceive the fact that some species are under pressures so great that the loss of even one individual reverberates with devastating consequences on the population at large.
The North Atlantic right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, is one of the most endangered whales in the world. Its population hovers at around 411 individuals, a cataclysmic decline from tens of thousands in the early 1900s.
The migratory routes of the right whale span from New England and Canada to the coasts of Georgia and Florida, giving this iconic marine mammal the endearing nickname "America's Whale." A population once rich in abundance now lies barren and sparse, which is the result of unintended ship strikes (ship strikes occur when a boat or a vessel hits a whale), and chronic entanglement in commercial fishing gear.
With no new calves born last year - and an unprecedented 20 mortalities over the past 18 months, it is clear that America's whale will not recover without immediate and fundamental change. The removal of vertical rope lines from fishing gear will literally clear the way, forging a key path forward for survival of this species.
Success will not be achieved without an engaged public that demands the survival of this species — a public that embraces the fundamental change needed to ensure its continued existence. To allow the mortal grip of extinction when a solution is within reach would be to deny the intrinsic value of the right whale, a species which has accompanied our society and culture through centuries of history.
Let us take bold action together and face headfirst one of the most pressing conservation challenges of our time. Let us remove the North Atlantic right whale from its current path toward extinction and place it on a path towards recovery.
-- Rodger Correa, IFAW Director of U.S. Communications
*This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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