Initial necropsy results show dead right whale had bruising from blunt trauma

BOURNE – The rare North Atlantic female right whale found floating dead in Cape Cod Bay on Thursday was brought to a landfill in Bourne where researchers performed a a necropsy on Friday.

Preliminary findings of bruising were consistent with blunt trauma. There was no evidence of entanglement. Final diagnosis is pending ancillary laboratory tests that can take weeks or months.

The logistics were organized by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and overseen by NOAA Fisheries.

“It’s really worrisome to know that another young right whale has died in our waters,” said Misty Niemeyer, Necropsy Coordinator for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

“As an endangered species of approximately 500 individuals, every animal is important for the survival of the population. We need to learn as much as we can from her tragic death and gain valuable insight in hopes to further protect the species.”

The young whale was a female, and was approximately 27 feet long. She has been identified as a one-year old offspring of Eg#4094 from the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog born in 2016.

“It’s very difficult to lose one of our endangered North Atlantic right whales, but it’s important for us to use this tragedy as a means to stay vigilant in our efforts to recover the species,” said Kim Damon-Randall, assistant regional administrator for protected resources at NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region.

“We’ll analyze the samples taken from the whale for disease, biotoxins, histology, genetics, and life history information. This will provide a glimpse into the life and death of this whale, which will contribute to our efforts to protect other whales in the population.”

There have been a record high number of endangered right whales observed in Cape Cod Bay over the past few weeks, and over 100 whales were observed last weekend during an aerial survey research project.

We urge vessels of all sizes to keep a close look out for right whales at all times and to travel slowly to help prevent injury to both whales and people. Right whales skim the water surface to feed or hang just below the surface and are difficult to see.

They can grow to 50 feet in length and weigh up to 55 tons, so they are large animals that need space.

Look for blows, ripples in the water, and patches of plankton–these are often signs that whales are in the area. Vessels and aircraft are required to maintain a distance of 500 yards from right whales.

The examination team was led by Bill McLellan from University of North Carolina Wilmington and included stranding response experts from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Marine Mammals of Maine, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, Center for Coastal Studies, New England Aquarium, Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, and University of New Hampshire.



Photo by David Curran Satellite News Service/CWN
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