Growing Number of Right Whale Deaths Concern Cape Cod Researchers

PROVINCETOWN – Researchers at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown are increasingly concerned about the number of right whales that have died over the past several months.

A 13th whale was found dead just over 100 miles east of Cape Cod this week in what Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo 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.

A majority of the whale deaths since then have happened off Canada, where Mayo said scientists are scrambling to find out what’s causing the high mortality rates.

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.

By MATT PITTA, Newn Director

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