Update on endangered right whale found dead in Cape Cod Bay

Update on endangered right whale found dead in Cape Cod Bay
Saturday, 15 April, 2017
Bourne, MA

On Thursday, April 13, a dead North Atlantic right whale was reported around 11:30 a.m. near Barnstable by researchers conducting right whale surveys in Cape Cod Bay. The United States Coast Guard provided assistance by towing the carcass to a landing site in Sesuit Harbor. Researchers then transported it by trailer to a necropsy site in Bourne for a complete examination.

The necropsy logistics were organized by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and overseen by NOAA Fisheries. The examination team was led by Bill McLellan from University of North Carolina Wilmington and included stranding response experts from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Marine Mammals of Maine, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, Center for Coastal Studies, New England Aquarium, Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, and University of New Hampshire.

“It’s really worrisome to know that another young right whale has died in our waters,” said Misty Niemeyer, Necropsy Coordinator for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “As an endangered species of approximately 500 individuals, every animal is important for the survival of the population. We need to learn as much as we can from her tragic death and gain valuable insight in hopes to further protect the species.”

The young whale was a female, and was approximately 27 feet long. She has been identified as a one-year old offspring of Eg#4094 from the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog born in 2016.

"It’s very difficult to lose one of our endangered North Atlantic right whales, but it’s important for us to use this tragedy as a means to stay vigilant in our efforts to recover the species,” says Kim Damon-Randall, assistant regional administrator for protected resources at NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. “We’ll analyze the samples taken from the whale for disease, biotoxins, histology, genetics, and life history information. This will provide a glimpse into the life and death of this whale, which will contribute to our efforts to protect other whales in the population."

Preliminary findings of bruising were consistent with blunt trauma. There was no evidence of entanglement. Final diagnosis is pending ancillary laboratory tests that can take weeks or months.

There have been a record high number of endangered right whales observed in Cape Cod Bay over the past few weeks, and over 100 whales were observed last weekend during an aerial survey research project. We urge vessels of all sizes to keep a close look out for right whales at all times and to travel slowly to help prevent injury to both whales and people. Right whales skim the water surface to feed or hang just below the surface and are difficult to see. They can grow to 50 feet in length and weigh up to 55 tons, so they are large animals that need space. Look for blows, ripples in the water, and patches of plankton--these are often signs that whales are in the area. Vessels and aircraft are required to maintain a distance of 500 yards from right whales. 

We encourage everyone to take this opportunity to view the right whales from local Cape Cod beaches, including Race Point Beach.

More information on right whales, and how to report sightings, is on NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region’s website.

About NOAA

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. 

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on social @action4ifaw and Facebook/IFAW.


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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