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Statement: NOAA/IFAW Right Whale Death

Jennifer  Goebel (NOAA)
(978) 281-9175
(978) 290-0203 (Cell)
Kerry   Branon
(508) 744-2068
May 6, 2016

Chatham, MA--On Thursday May 5, a dead North Atlantic right whale was reported near Morris Island. The Chatham Harbor Master towed it to Hardings Beach where a necropsy is being performed today with a large team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, International Fund for Animal Welfare, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Virginia Aquarium, Riverhead Foundation and the Center for Coastal Studies.

"It's always difficult to lose one of our endangered right whales, but it's important for us to use this tragedy as a means to stay vigilant in our efforts to recover the species," says Dave Gouveia, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Program coordinator at NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. "We'll analyze the samples taken from the whale for disease, biotoxins, histology, genetics, and life history information. This will provide a glimpse into the life and death of this whale, which will contribute to our efforts to protect other whales in the population."

The calf was born in December or January off the coast of Georgia, where many right whales are born, and was still nursing. 

"It's really sad to know that another right whale calf has died in our waters," said Misty Niemeyer, necropsy coordinator for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "As an endangered species with a total population of approximately 450-500 individuals, this whale's death is a huge blow to the population. We are performing a full necropsy today to help determine cause of death."

The whale was the eighth calf of the female right whale known as "Punctuation." The mom and calf pair has been spotted several times this year, with the last confirmed sighting on April 28, 2016 when they were swimming in Cape Cod Bay.

This is the second confirmed right whale calf mortality this year out of 14 known births. While the calf shows some marks that are consistent with boat propeller scars, the cause of death has yet to be determined.

Photos are available on IFAW's website.

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About NOAA

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. 

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook/IFAW and Twitter @action4ifaw

On the web

Learn more about right whale approach guidelines, and how to identify right whales.