4th North Atlantic Right Whale Found Dead Off East Coast This Year, Newborn Calf’s Fate Uncertain

A North Atlantic right whale that recently gave birth to her sixth known calf has been found dead off the coast of Virginia, leaving the fate of her newborn calf in jeopardy.

The New England Aquarium and Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute identified the whale as Catalog #1950, a female at least 35 years old. Her carcass was found 50 miles off the coast of Virginia on Saturday. The whale was last seen healthy and with her calf on February 16 off Amelia Island, Florida. The calf, which aerial survey teams have been unable to locate, is not expected to survive without its mother.

This marks the fourth documented death of a North Atlantic right whale in U.S. waters this year alone. Adding to the grim tally, three newborn calves have mysteriously vanished, exacerbating fears for the future of the species.

Commenting on the dire situation, Amy Knowlton, a senior scientist at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, stressed the urgent need for action to avert the extinction of North Atlantic right whales. “The situation so far in 2024 for right whales highlights the fact that much more needs to be done to prevent the extinction of this species,” Knowlton stated. “It is frustrating that solutions that could address these threats are not being implemented more immediately.”

Efforts are underway to unravel the circumstances surrounding Catalog #1950’s demise. A vessel has been tasked with towing the whale’s carcass ashore, where scientists from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, in collaboration with various organizations, will conduct a thorough necropsy examination. This examination aims to shed light on the cause of death through meticulous internal and external assessments, alongside the collection of tissue samples.

Catalog #1950’s association with her newborn calf dates back to January 11, 2024, when she was first sighted by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Georgia aerial survey team. The tragic loss of this experienced mother, who had successfully raised five calves prior to this incident, underscores the urgency of conservation efforts to safeguard the dwindling population of North Atlantic right whales. 




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