North Atlantic Right Whale Found Dead off Nantucket

HYANNIS – Another North Atlantic Right whale has been found dead as the species’ survival continues to be cast into doubt.

On Sunday, the NOAA vessel Henry B. Bigelow reported a sighting of a whale carcass floating about 100 miles east of Nantucket.

After a review of photographs by experts, the carcass was confirmed as a right whale.

The whale was at least 35 feet long, making it a sub-adult. This is the third known right whale mortality of 2018.

At least 17 right whales were found dead in 2017.

While the carcass is severely decomposed, experts said photographs show multiple wounds indicative of human interaction.

The initial examination revealed marks consistent with entanglement.

NOAA scientists and members of the U.S. Coast Guard from Air Station Cape Cod flew a search pattern based on the last known locations, and were able to find the carcass early Monday afternoon.

In 2017, NOAA confirmed 17 North Atlantic right whale deaths–about 4 percent of their population–an alarming number for an endangered species with a population estimated at about 450 animals.

There are currently only about 100 females of breeding age in the population and more females seem to be dying than males.

Births have also been declining in recent years, and no new calves were spotted in the calving grounds off Florida this year. 

In August 2017, NOAA Fisheries declared the increase in right whale mortalities an “Unusual Mortality Event.”

That move helped the agency direct additional scientific and financial resources to investigating, understanding, and reducing the mortalities in partnership with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and outside experts from the scientific research community.


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