World's Smallest Whale Population Close to Extinction

North Pacific Right Whale Almost Extinct

Smallest whale population in the world is truly on the brink of extinction.

The smallest known whale population in the world is down to 30 individuals, only 8 of them being females according to a study released last week.

The whale is the eastern North Pacific right whale. It can measure up to 60 feet (18 meters) long. And with a population under 50, it “falls below the IUCN’s threshold of likely viability as a species.”

“Its precarious status today … is a direct consequence of uncontrolled and illegal whaling, and highlights the past failure of international management to prevent such abuse,” said the study, published in the British Royal Society’s Biology Letters.

As reported on physorg:

The Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska once teemed with tens of thousands of North Pacific right whales.

But hunting in the 19th century wiped out most of them, with up to 30,000 slaughtered in the 1840s alone, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Poaching by the Soviet Union during the 1960s claimed several hundred more, making Eubalaena japonica probably the most endangered species of whale on Earth.

A genetically distinct sister species of this whale, the western Pacific Right whale, is doing a bit better, but is also listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN with several hundred individuals remaining.

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Image Credit: Ryan Somma via flickr

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