NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A unique species of baleen whales in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Panhandle may be threatened with extinction and could get special protection from federal regulators.

Recently the National Marine Fisheries Service said special protection may be warranted for a small population of Bryde's (pronounced Bru-dihs) whales that scientists believe live year-round in the DeSoto Canyon, an area near the site of BP's catastrophic oil spill five years ago.

The whales are faced with a number of threats — among them being struck by passing ships and oil and gas activities.

The Interior Department has begun to open up portions of the eastern Gulf to drilling operations near where the whales live.

The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition last year seeking endangered status for the whales.

(Story by: Cain Burdeau, The Associated Press)




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