BREAKING: Right whale calf found dead in Cape Cod waters, necropsy in progress

Right Whale Calf

I joined my fellow International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) responders last night to examine a dead North Atlantic right whale calf that had been reported off Morris Island and towed to a nearby beach by the local harbormaster.

Our team is part of a larger coalition of scientists performing an necropsy on the animal this afternoon.

The animal is nearly 30 ft. in length and likely around 10,000 lbs.  The New England Aquarium was able to identify it as a calf born this past year, most likely in December or January, in waters off Georgia. The mother is a known animal identified as “Punctuation.”

The mom and calf pair had been seen several times in Cape Cod Bay by different research teams throughout last month and as recently as April 28.

READ: 57-foot whale autopsy reveals that it was killed by collision with ship

The animal has several large wounds consistent with propeller injuries, but we will not know the cause of death until we complete a full necropsy with other scientists from the following organizations: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, International Fund for Animal Welfare, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Virginia Aquarium, Riverhead Foundation and the Center for Coastal Studies.

The North Atlantic right whale population only numbers 450-500 individuals and every death is a shock to the rebuilding of the fragile population. The loss of a young calf is especially tragic.

We will be reporting more on this sad news as more information becomes available and will report the findings of the necropsy when it is finished.


All activities conducted under National Marine Fisheries Services Permit # 18786.

For more information about IFAW efforts to protect marine mammals, visit our program page.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation