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Ocean research group says right whale entanglements hurt animals’ reproductive health

In this Wednesday March 28, 2018 photo, a North Atlantic right whale feeds on the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Michael Dwyer

A research group says the rise in the number of fishing-gear entanglements of North American right whales is hurting the animals’ ability to reproduce and care for their young.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution recently released a report on the endangered whale species, exploring the top threats to the whales as the animals’ calving season begins.

READ MORE: North Atlantic right whales nearing extinction, international nature body says 

Michael Moore, a senior scientist with the organization and co-author of the report, says whales waste valuable energy escaping and healing from entanglements instead of using that energy to raise and feed calves.

Moore says as the whales move toward the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, they’re encountering heavier fishing gear, which he says has the potential to cause more entanglements.

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The report says between 2010 and 2015, 85 per cent of right whale deaths were caused by entanglements and says the rates of non-fatal and of lethal entanglements have increased.

The U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month said the right whale population has dropped dramatically, to 366 in 2019 from 412 in 2018.