North Atlantic Right Whale Found Dead Off Nantucket
October 21, 2018
Update - 11/16/2018: The probable cause of death has been determined to be a severe acute entanglement. This now means that all three of the known deaths of North Atlantic right whales in 2018 have been from fishing gear entanglements. Researchers believe that this whale had been dead from one to four weeks by the time it was examined. No rope was found on the whale when it was examined but researchers noted that "The whale had multiple wounds indicative of a wrapping line entanglement, including pronounced ligature impressions with related deep concave defects indicating severe constricting abrasions." and "Entanglement wounds were strongly suggestive of numerous transverse body wraps involving the thorax (chest) and flippers." There will be a DNA test conducted in an attempt to identify the individual whale and determine the sex of the whale.
Source: Entanglement Likely the Cause of Latest Right Whale Death - CapeCod.com
For more on how fishing gear entanglements are affecting North Atlantic right whales we encourage everyone to check out our Entanglement in Fishing Gear section.
The severely decomposed North Atlantic right whale, possibly a young adult at only around 35 feet long, is seen here in a photograph from the US Coast Guard.
Photo credit: US Coast Guard, AMT3 Garret Vaughan/NMFS Permit #18786-03
A North Atlantic right whale has been found dead off the coast of Massachusetts - the third confirmed death of 2018 in this highly endangered population. A NOAA ship sighted the whale on Sunday, October 14th floating about 100 miles east of the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. A NOAA team, along with members off the U.S. Coast Guard, were able to find the whale again the next day and took photographs and samples to try to identify the individual whale and the cause of death. The NOAA press release stated, "The carcass is severely decomposed, but photographs show multiple wounds indicative of human interaction. The initial examination revealed marks consistent with entanglement. However, at this stage is it too early to speculate on the cause of the death."
It would not be surprising if the death was from entanglement as it is now the leading cause of death of North Atlantic right whales. The first death of the year was confirmed to be from entanglement and the second "most likely died as a result of being entangled in gear and drowning". The second whale was believed to be one of the five calves born in 2017 and the whale just found dead off of Nantucket was only around 35 feet and is believed to be a sub-adult.
There are only around 430 of these whales left, only about 100 of which are females of breeding age and their birth rates are falling. Last year there were only five births, this year there were none and at least 20 North Atlantic right whales have died since April of 2017. The combination of the suffering they go through and the fact they are on the path to extinction is completely unacceptable and is why we keep fighting for these whales. It simply doesn't have to be this way and since it's humans who are causing the problem, it's our responsibility as a species to fix it. The solutions actually exist and because the political will to change things does not exist, we are taking matters into our own hands and bringing the truth about what is happening to these whales directly to the people. We encourage everyone to view our Entanglement in Fishing Gear page to learn more about fishing gear entanglements and how we can stop them from happening. We will update this post if we learn any new information and we will make sure that the death of this whale will not be forgotten and will be learned from.
Third North Atlantic Right Whale Mortality of 2018 Confirmed - NOAA Press Release