Accidental deaths of endangered whale threatens its survival

FILE - In this April 10, 2008 file photo, a North Atlantic right whale breaks the ocean surface off Provincetown, Mass., in Cape Cod Bay. Marine conservation groups say the endangered North Atlantic right whale is having such a bad year for accidental deaths that all the mortality could challenge the species' ability to recover in the future. There are thought to be no more than 500 of the giant animals left. Biologists say there have been 12 known deaths of the whales since April, meaning about 2 percent of the population had died in just a few months. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Marine conservation groups say accidental deaths this year among the endangered North Atlantic right whales threaten the species survival.

Right whales are among the most imperiled marine mammals on Earth. No more than 500 of them still exist in the wild.

Related: Feds to resume most whale disentanglement efforts

Biologist Regina Asmutis-Silvia says at least 12 whales have died since April, or about 2 percent of the population in just a few months.

Asmutis-Silvia and other conservationists say the deaths are evidence that regulations to prevent ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear need to be strengthened in the United States and Canada.

Marine regulators in both countries say efforts to protect whales are ongoing.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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