Federal Government Launches Investigation Into Growing Number of Right Whale Deaths 

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The federal government is launching an investigation into the recent deaths of endangered North Atlantic rightwhales.

At least 13 of thewhaleshave been found dead this year off the coasts of Canada and New England. Thewhalesare among the rarest marine mammals in the world and number no more than 500.

An arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday it is declaring the deaths “an unusual mortality event.” The agency says that designation triggers a “focused, expert investigation” into the cause of the deaths.

A 13thwhale was found dead just over 100 miles east of Cape Cod last week in what Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown called a “bad situation.”

More than 50% of the world’s entire right whale population was spotted in Cape Cod Bay this past winter and spring.

“This species is nearly extinct and this is the species, as rare as it is, is very much Cape Cod’s whale,” said Mayo.

While some of the whales have reportedly shown evidence of ship strikes and entanglement, Mayo said it’s hard to imagine that’s the reason for all the deaths.

He called it a “mystery” and hopes a cause can be determined that can be managed by researchers.

“The necropsies, to my knowledge, have yet shown whether there are any toxins, perhaps biotoxins, that are involved,” Mayo said.

At least four of the 13 whales found dead were females, putting further pressure on the reproduction cycle for the species.

Mayo said they’ve only been able to record 5 new calves this year, a number he called appalling. He also said the number of dead right whales may actually be higher than 13.

Representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and NOAA Fisheries are expected to provide more information about the investigation Friday morning. Some of thewhaleshave died due to ship strikes or fishing gear entanglement.

About CapeCod.com NewsCenter

The award-winning CapeCod.com NewsCenter provides the Cape Cod community with a constant, credible source for local, regional, and national news. We are on the job seven days a week. You can also hear the CapeCod.com NewsCenter by tuning into Ocean 104.7 FM.

More From CapeCod.com