In the Shadow of Extinction

The North Atlantic right whale is facing extinction.  Researchers estimate there are less than 450 left. Of those, about 100 are reproductive females.

Last year, at least 16 of the whales were found dead, while just 5 new calves were identified. The math is against the species.

If nothing is done to alter the equation, scientists say, the North Atlantic right whale could be functionally extinct in 20 years.

But an effort is underway to save them.

WCAI examines the challenges facing the North Atlantic right whale, and the people working to preserve the species, in a new reporting series, “In the Shadow of Extinction.”

Kathryn Eident

It’s nearly May and North Atlantic Right Whales have returned to Cape Cod Bay to feed, as they do each year. But something is different this year; there are no new calves with their mothers. In the second installment of our series on right whales, WCAI’s Kathryn Eident reports scientists are worried it’s another sign the species is moving closer toward extinction. 


The North Atlantic right whale was once seen as an inexhaustible natural resource. It was hunted for its oil and enriched New England. That ended one-hundred years ago, but the right whale’s numbers have never been the same. Now, the whales that are left are in direct conflict with the harvesting of another rich natural resource: lobsters. 

Each spring North Atlantic right whales visit Cape Cod Bay. The mammals are well-documented by researchers, but their numbers are dwindling. It’s estimated there are fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales left. On April 18th, WCAI begins a special series of reports on the endangered North Atlantic right whale, called “In the Shadow of Extinction.”