By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Federal scientists say a tiny group of whales in the Gulf of Mexico is endangered , with threats including oil and gas exploration and development.

The Bryde's (BROO-duhs) whales are the only filter-feeding whales living year-round in the Gulf.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist said Friday there are about 33 in the Gulf's DeSoto Canyon and if there are others in the southern Gulf, the most optimistic estimate is fewer than 100.

Laura Engleby says the whales are genetically so different from other Bryde's whales that they may be a different species.

They once swam in the central and northern gulf. They're now found in a deep-water area about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of the 2005 oil spill site.

Threats include noise from seismic surveys and ship traffic, which interfere with their subsonic communication.

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