Endangered right whale found dead off Nantucket
The severely decomposed carcass of an endangered North Atlantic right whale was discovered off of Nantucket, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, U.S.A., on Sunday, 14 October, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The sex of the 35-foot-long whale has not yet been identified, but NOAA has determined from its size that it was a sub-adult. Photographs of the carcass revealed “multiple wounds indicative of human interaction,” according to a NOAA press release.
“The initial examination revealed marks consistent with entanglement,” NOAA said. “However, at this stage is it too early to speculate on the cause of the death.”
The mortality brings the 2018 death count of North Atlantic right whales up to three. A 30-foot male right whale was found dead off of Martha’s Vineyard, another island in Massachusetts, on 26 August. And a 10-year-old female was found dead off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia on 24 January. Both whales were believed to have died from entanglement with fishing lines.
Last year, NOAA confirmed 17 North Atlantic right whale deaths – 12 in Canada and five in the United States. The deaths amounted to around 4 percent of the total North Atlantic right whale population of 450.
Earlier in October, the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team met in Providence, Rhode Island, to consider methods to minimize the impact of fishing on the right whale population, including proposals to close the Gulf of Maine fishery south of Cape Elizabeth, Maine during April; reducing the number of traps lobstermen can use; and becoming a ropeless fishery by 2020.
In August 2017, NOAA declared the increase in right whale mortalities an Unusual Mortality Event, which allowed the agency to 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.
“After a devastating number of mortalities in 2017, the already critically endangered North Atlantic right whale is in crisis,” NOAA said in a statement. “NOAA scientists, resource managers, and partners are coordinating closely to solve this urgent conservation challenge.”