Scientists Say Outlook Not Good for Entangled Right Whale “Snow Cone”

North Atlantic right whale “Snow Cone” (Catalog #3560) spotted south of Nantucket on Sept. 21, 2022, dragging heavy fishing gear and in poor health. CREDIT: New England Aquarium, taken under NOAA permit #25739

NANTUCKET – Marine animal experts are saying the outlook is not good for a heavily-entangled North Atlantic right whale that frequents the Cape and Islands region. 

New England Aquarium scientists including Research Assistant Sharon Hsu said that aerial teams spotted “Snow Cone” 15 south of Nantucket weak and covered in fishing gear from both old and new entanglements.

“You can tell she’s not doing well. She’s covered in orange Cyamids, which are whale lice, which indicates that she’s been swimming incredibly slowly,” said Hsu in an interview with

“She could barely dive. She just kind of sunk underneath the water.”

She added that survival for the whale is unlikely, given that Snow Cone is suffering from both old and new entanglements, some of which embedded deeply in her upper jaw. This latest sighting brings her total number of entanglements up to at least five in her lifetime.

Officials with the Center for Coastal Studies said they are investigating dis-entanglement options, though poor weather conditions have delayed their response.

Director of Marine Animal Entanglement Response with the Center Scott Landry said they are not going to count out any disentanglement options, despite the prognosis.

“In the decades that we’ve been doing this work, we have never once given up on a whale and decided it’s too far gone. Because animals do surprise us, people surprise us too,” Landry told

“So we have to at least try our best to give her a chance to bounce back.” 

Hsu said that a healthy adult female whale can potentially raise 30 calves in her lifetime, so the death of a Snow Cone would be a large blow to a species totaling less than 340 individuals.

Landry said he expects a dis-entanglement team to be able to get out to the whale sometime early to mid next week.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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