Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Dead North Atlantic Right Whale Calf Found Off Massachusetts

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A North Atlantic Right Whale calf was found this week on the shore of the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

According to NOAA Fisheries:

“On January 28, 2024, we were notified of a dead female North Atlantic right whale near Joseph Sylvia State Beach on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. NOAA Fisheries and @ifawglobal will work closely with the Massachusetts Environmental Police and local responders on next steps.

“A necropsy will be performed when weather conditions become more favorable. Preliminary observations indicate the presence of rope entangled near the whale’s tail (around the peduncle). Due to the animal’s position, the whale cannot be identified at this time, but it is estimated to be a juvenile due to its size.”

Some of the rope wrapped around the whale’s tail was collected and turned over to NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement for examination by gear experts.

Gib Brogan, campaign director at Oceana in the United States, said:

“It’s devastating to hear about another loss to North Atlantic right whales. This death is even more troubling when it is a female calf that could have gone on to have many calves of her own for decades to come. The recovery of North Atlantic right whales cannot take any more setbacks. While we don’t know the cause of this calf’s death, entanglement with fishing gear and collisions with boats remain the top threats to the future of North Atlantic right whales. Since 2017, at least 55 North Atlantic right whales have been killed or seriously injured by boat strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. This latest example should serve as a wakeup call that the status quo is not working. The survival of North Atlantic right whales requires strong leadership in the U.S. and Canadian governments to ensure fishing and boat traffic stop killing the remaining whales.”

While Kim Elmslie, campaign director at Oceana in Canada, added:

“January has started and ended with tragedy for critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. A female right whale calf found dead, right on the heels of news of another calf struck by a small boat at the beginning of the month, underscores the urgent need for continued, strong and mandatory protection to safeguard these whales from entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes. With a population of just 356 whales left, each loss significantly impacts the already fragile population.”

The news comes in the wake of a new study that was published last week on the plight of North Atlantic right whales and what can be done to reduce the risk of boat strikes.

According to Oceana’s Brogan:

“This peer-reviewed study from noted scientists at the New England Aquarium, Duke University and the federal government is further proof that the United States government needs to do far more to protect North Atlantic right whales from collisions with boats. The study underscores an obvious and infuriating truth: critically endangered North Atlantic right whales are dying because our government is failing to do its job. The authors provide clear recommendations for improvements to the U.S. boat traffic rules and it is well past time for President Biden and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to follow the science and move forward with finalizing the government’s own proposed updated vessel speed rule.”

The scientists in the study all agree that:

  • the current spatial and temporal scales at which speed restrictions are implemented along the U.S. East Coast are inadequate because lethal vessel strikes of large whales remain an important management issue
  • results showed that a 10 kt [11.5mph/18.5kph], rather than 14 kt [16mph/26kph], speed restriction was necessary for reducing risk and that speed restrictions applied in the Critical Whale Habitat were almost as effective as speed restrictions applied throughout the U.S. East Coast EEZ.
  • the Critical Whale Habitat represents broad areas and long time periods that were primarily defined to ensure protection of right whales.
  • The results also suggest that a 10 kt speed restriction in the Critical Whale Habitat provides protections for humpback, fin, and sei whales.
John Liang
John Lianghttps://www.deeperblue.com/
John Liang is the News Editor at DeeperBlue.com. He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.

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