Another Endangered Whale Dead in US Waters

Right whale appears to have been struck by a ship, an increasingly common hazard
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 18, 2024 7:29 AM CST
Another Endangered Whale Dead in US Waters
This photo provided by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources shows a DNR boat crew assessing a dead juvenile right whale about 20 miles off Tybee Island, Ga., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024.   (Georgia Department of Natural Resources via AP)

Federal authorities said the second critically endangered North Atlantic right whale found dead in the last month appears to have been struck by a ship. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it was notified of a dead right whale floating off Savannah, Georgia, on Feb. 13. The agency said Friday that a necropsy of the animal "found evidence of blunt force trauma including fractures of the skull" and that those "injuries are consistent with a vessel strike prior to death," per the AP. The whales number less than 360 and have experienced decline in recent years.

The announcement came just days after NOAA released more details about a dead right whale off Massachusetts that showed signs of entanglement in fishing gear, which is the other major threat the animals face. The back-to-back deaths of the rare whales that both showed evidence of the species' two major threats should motivate rule changes, numerous environmental groups said Saturday. "The North Atlantic right whale's nursery is becoming a crime scene," said Greg Reilly of International Fund for Animal Welfare. "Without enhanced protections, the North Atlantic right whale is doomed to extinction."

NOAA has proposed new vessel speed rules to try to protect whales, but they have yet to go into effect. Environmental groups have sued to try to force a deadline for the new rules. New fishing standards designed to protect the whales from entanglement in rope are also the subject of ongoing lawsuits involving environmentalists, fishing groups, and the federal government. The whales migrate from the waters off Florida and Georgia to New England every year and face hazards like collisions and entanglement along the way.

(More whales stories.)

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