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Second North Atlantic Right Whale Mortality of 2018 Confirmed

August 29, 2018

The second North Atlantic right whale mortality of 2018 has been confirmed. The young whale, about 30 feet in length, was reported floating off Tom's Neck Point, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts on Sunday, August 26. The carcass was re-sighted late on August 27, and we started making plans to tow the whale in for a necropsy.

Tim Cole (NEFSC whale researcher) putting a satellite tag on the whale's flipper from the USCG boatPhoto: Tim Cole (NEFSC whale researcher) putting satellite tag on whale's flipper from the U.S.Coast Guard vessel. Credit USCG. 

On August 28, the U.S. Coast Guard and two staffers from the NOAA Fisheries Woods Hole Laboratory sailed to the carcass. The whale was too decomposed to tow to shore. A solar-powered satellite tag was attached to the whale's flipper, and tissue samples were taken that may help us learn more about this whale.

We will monitor its location through the satellite tag, and perform additional sampling if the carcass lands on a beach this week. We thank our local stranding network members, IFAW and Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, for their assistance.

The first right whale mortality of 2018 was confirmed off Virginia in January.

Right Whales in Crisis

In 2017, NOAA confirmed 17 North Atlantic right whales deaths--about 4 percent of their population--an alarming number for an endangered species with a population estimated at about 450 animals. There are currently only about 100 females of breeding age in the population and more females seem to be dying than males. Births have also been declining in recent years, and no new calves were been spotted in the calving grounds off Florida this year.

In August 2017, NOAA Fisheries declared the increase in right whale mortalities an “Unusual Mortality Event,” which helps the agency direct additional scientific and financial resources to investigating, understanding, and reducing the mortalities in partnership with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and outside experts from the scientific research community.

Report a Stranded Marine Mammal

If you see a stranded marine mammal, please report it to our stranding hotline 866-755-NOAA (6622).