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For many decades, the North Atlantic right whale was a conservation success story. After being hunted to near extinction, a series of protective actions that began in the 1930s, and accelerated in the 1960s, helped the population begin to rebound.But in 2010, something changed. Since then, the number of North Atlantic right whales has started to decrease again. Last year was particularly bad; 17 bloated carcasses washed up on beaches along the East Coast, many of which were marred by scars from boat strikes and fishing gear.With approximately 450 of these whales left, every death is a big deal. In fact, experts predict if the current trend holds, the species, which plays an important role in the marine ecosystem, will be extinct by 2040.Yet, while much attention has been paid to mortalities, far less attention has been paid to what some biologists say is the whale’s real long-term problem: plummeting birth rates.

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