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Apr 20, 2017 11:05 AM EDT

World Wildlife Fund scientists said few right whale claves were seen during the winter season, making them concerned about the whales' population. Experts have counted about 17 newborn right whales in the Atlantic waters of the Southeastern US.

The low number might be evidence of the specie's population decline. Right whales are the rarest whale in the North Atlantic. They open their mouths and filter food from the water.

A female North right whale was found floating dead in Cape Cod Bay on Thursday. According to the recent necropsy result, experts believed it died from a blunt trauma, Click Lancashire reported.

Philip Hamilton, a right whale researcher at the New England Aquarium in Boston said mother whales are identified using distinct markings on their heads, which shows they are vulnerable to ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Researchers have observed below-average birth rates since 2012.

Coastal researchers in MA found more endangered right whales in Cape Cod Bay recently. This year's birth turnout affects the species' capacity to reproduce a decade from now when the newborns would be sexually mature to reproduce.

Clay George, a wildlife biologis from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said it may be too early to be gloomy about the declining population and he cited the population turned around in the 2000s. There were 31 newborns in 2001, followed by 107 in 2011 according to data from Center for Coastal Studies. But since then numbers have considerably dropped.

Researchers said there were three calves born this year and possibly a fourth was discovered on Sunday. They estimated about 500 existing North American right whales and the future of the marine animals looks grim, The Normangee Star reported.

Hamilton hopes to see better results next year. The endangered right whales gave birth to the fewest calves seen off the USA coast in 17 years. In the past five years, there were fewer right whales seen in the waters where they're known to gorge themselves on plankton in the northern Atlantic between New England and Nova Scotia.

Follows right whale, cape cod bay, World Wildlife Fund, Southeastern US, North Atlantic, New England Aquarium, Philip Hamilton, Clay George, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Center for Coastal Studies
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