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North Atlantic right whales chosen as's Newsmaker of the Year

In an online vote, readers of have picked the North Atlantic right whale crisis as the newsmaker of 2017
Researchers examine one of the North Atlantic right whales that have died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in a recent handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Marine Animal Response Society MANDATORY CREDIT

Readers of have chosen North Atlantic right whales as the newsmaker of 2017.

The dwindling population of right whales reached a crisis point this year.

Seventeen whales were found dead, many in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It's believed only 450 remain and the estimated 100 breeding females left are producing fewer calves.

In October, researchers, government representatives and fishing-industry professionals gathered in Halifax for an annual North Atlantic right whale meeting, where the significant spike in mortalities became the main focus of discussions. 

North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium chair Mark Baumgartner said time is running out to save the endangered species from extinction.

According to Dr. Baumgartner, research suggests breeding females could be wiped out within two decades.

Many of the whale deaths have been attributed to human activities, like collisions with ships and fishing gear entanglements.

Federal fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc has said Ottawa will do whatever it takes to protect right whales, including measures already put in place like shortening the snow crab season and imposing a 10-knot speed limit for vessels of 20 metres or more in length in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence

The deadly year for right whales also claimed the life of one New Brunswick fisherman. On July 10th, Campobello Island's Joe Howlett helped rescue a North Atlantic right whale that had been entangled in fishing gear. 

Mackie Green of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team said Howlett was hit by the whale just after it had been freed.

In a statement, LeBlanc said, "We have lost an irreplaceable member of the whale rescue community. His expertise and dedication will be greatly missed."

Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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