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North Atlantic Right Whale Found Dead on Martha's Vineyard

Right whale
North Atlantic right whale affected by a rope entanglement (NOAA file image)

Published Jan 30, 2024 6:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

A North Atlantic right whale was found deceased on the northeastern shores of Martha's Vineyard last weekend, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The population is critically endangered, and marine scientists say that each individual is now essential to the long-term survival of the species. 

Females of breeding age are particularly important to the North Atlantic right whale's survival. There are only 70 females capable of bearing offspring, out of a total population of 360 whales. The individual found near Joseph Sylvia State Beach was a juvenile female. 

According to NOAA, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wampanoag Tribe secured the remains, and a necropsy will be performed. The whale was entangled in a rope near her tail.

“While we don’t know the cause of death yet, we know that entanglements can lead to long-term suffering and death. We also know that entanglements must be prevented to save this species from extinction," said IFAW veterinarian Dr. Sarah Sharp, speaking to Fox News.

Fishing gear entanglement is a leading cause of morbidity and death among North Atlantic right whales, and NOAA is taking steps to reduce the risk. IFAW estimates that nine out of ten North Atlantic right whale deaths are caused by ship strikes or entanglements (out of all cases in which a cause can be determined).