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CRITICALLY ENDANGERED NORTH ATLANTIC RIGHT WHALE SHOWING SWIFT DETERIORIATION
Washington, DC - September 26, 2022 – On September 22, personnel from the New England Aquarium confirmed sighting of 17-year old, female, “Snow Cone”, the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, off the coast of Nantucket. Snow Cone was found to be entangled in new fishing gear, adding to the gear she continues to drag along with her from a previous entanglement. Shockingly, this is the fifth confirmed entanglement for Snow Cone, whose resilience has been legendary and whose life story is an embodiment of the dire crisis facing the species.
Displaying a dramatic decline in her overall condition, Snow Cone was found to be emaciated and covered in whale lice, a clear indicator of poor health. Unable to dive properly, it was clear that she is suffering immensely, showing advanced signs of deterioration with little chance for survival. An attempt at disentanglement was made back in March 2021 with only partial success at removing the hundreds of pounds of fishing gear she was dragging at the time. An additional attempt to disentangle her is being planned currently but her extreme decline makes recovery impossible.
Snow Cone was spotted in late 2021 with what has been described as a “miracle calf” in the scientific community. Given her poor health due to entanglement, scientists were shocked that she was able to give birth and nurse despite her extreme injuries and condition. Sadly, that calf has not been seen since earlier this year and is presumed dead. Snow Cone lost an additional calf due to a vessel strike in 2020, which represents the other leading cause of right whale deaths.
Right whales maneuver through an industrialized waterway dense with intense vessel traffic and an estimated one million commercial vertical fishing lines in the water column. This migration journey, which the species has taken for centuries, has sadly become a journey of no return, a dreary sign for a species whose numbers are estimated to be in the range of 330 animals with less than 90 reproductive females.
According to Kathleen Collins, Marine Campaigns Manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW):
“Snow Cone is the embodiment of the dire situation facing the North Atlantic right whale species. With her near certain death due to chronic entanglement, we will have lost her lineage, a potentially catastrophic loss to the species as a whole. She as well as so many in her species continue to suffer needlessly. It is in our collective hands to turn this situation around. This is a clear and urgent call to action for the industry to take meaningful action including the swift adoption of acoustic on-demand gear that vastly removes the threat of entanglement for right whales. We must not let this species become functionally extinct on our watch.”
IFAW is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to
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