The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week confirmed the death of a male North Atlantic Right Whale calf near Morehead City, North Carolina.
“Response teams recovered the carcass and conducted a necropsy,” according to NOAA.
The calf was seen alive on January 3rd, 2023, when a member of the public reported to the Southeast Regional Stranding Network that the lone calf was swimming close to shore inside of the Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina.
Scientific survey teams were able to locate the calf, but couldn’t find its mother.
“Based on images and video, experts estimated the male calf to be no more than a couple of weeks old. They suggested the animal appeared to be underweight and in relatively poor health. Newborn calves cannot survive long without their mothers. There are very few intervention options available to the stranding network given the size of the animals and their specialized needs….
“At this point, we do not know who the calf’s mother is or her condition. Scientists maintain an extensive database and photo-identification catalog of all North Atlantic right whales. We will use this catalog and a genetic sample from the calf to determine its relatives.”
The calf has been added as the 93rd whale to the ongoing “Unusual Mortality Event” that the species has experienced since 2017, according to NOAA.
Gib Brogan, a fisheries campaign manager at Oceana, said:
“A tragedy like this is all too familiar and is further proof that more must be done to protect these critically endangered whales. With only around 340 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, each death is a significant blow to the declining population and pushes it closer to extinction. Each year, pregnant mothers head south to give birth in the warm waters along the coast spanning from South Carolina to central Florida and then return to New England and Canada. It’s clear that during the first few weeks of its life, this calf and its mother were separated. Calves cannot survive long without their mothers. We know that ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are ever-present threats to North Atlantic right whales, and that current safeguards are inadequate.”
Last month, Oceana filed an emergency petition with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service calling for immediate protection for North Atlantic right whale mothers and calves during this current calving season, Brogan added.
“Without a response, future preventable deaths are on the hands of the government for failing to do its job.”