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Recent deaths of North Atlantic right whales along the coast of the US and Canada has triggered the federal government to commit more resources into investigating their demise.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday declared that spate of deaths to be an “unusual mortality death,” which allows the government to provide more resources, including aerial surveys, to probe the deaths and examine what can be done to protect the species.

That declaration will prompt a “focused, expert investigation,” NOAA said in a statement.

There are only about 450 of the whales left, and officials in the US and Canada have confirmed the deaths of at least 15 of the creatures this year. They are among the most endangered creatures on the planet.


The whales typically have a lifespan of at least 70 years, and can weigh up to 79 tons and be 50-feet long, according to NOAA.

Government scientists from the US and Canada are expected to discuss recent North Atlantic right whale strandings and unusual mortality events during a conference call on Friday.

David Abel of Globe Staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.