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Environment and Outdoors

Rare Whale's Recovery Hurt by Entanglements, Scientists Say

Campobello Whale Rescue
A right whale entangled in fishing gear Aug. 13 off of Campobello Island in the Bay of Fundy. Rescuers were able to free the whale.

PORTLAND, Maine - Scientists say the ability of an endangered whale species to recover is jeopardized by increasing rates of entanglement in fishing gear and a resultant drop in birth rates.

The population of North Atlantic right whales has slowly crept up from about 300 in 1992 to about 500 in 2010. But a study in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science says the number of baby right whales born every year has steeply declined since 2010.

Study author Scott Kraus says the whales' population suffers even when they survive entanglements in fishing gear. He says data suggest those entanglements have long-term negative physical and reproductive effects on them.

Kraus says there is reason to believe the entanglements could harm conservation efforts despite recent positive signs on the whales' recovery.