Right Whale Calf Dies After Apparent Boat Collision

No more than 360 North Atlantic right whales remain, including fewer than 70 reproductively active females. The past seven years have been devastating, as entanglements in commercial fishing gear and vessel strikes continue to take a heavy toll, resulting in right whale deaths outweighing calf births. 

This calving season, researchers identified 19 mother and calf right whale pairs, signaling the most productive calving season in years. Still, given the population size and mortality rate, a significantly higher number of newborn calves are needed annually to stem the population’s decline. 

Tragically, three of the newborns have already been reported dead. The first of these, spotted in late November, belonged to 38-year-old right whale Juno. Juno’s family had previously suffered an estimated 28 entanglements and two vessel strikes. Six such incidents happened to calves under a year old. Sadly, Juno’s newborn calf has joined this grim tally. A little over a month after the mother-calf pair were first sighted, the calf was spotted with severe injuries to her head and mouth, apparently from a boat propeller. Two months later, in March, the calf was discovered dead—washed up on Georgia’s Cumberland Island National Seashore.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed extending vessel speed restrictions currently in place for larger vessels to include those 35–65 feet in length—the size of vessel thought to have struck Juno’s calf—but has delayed issuing a final rule amid political blowback.

Take action

Urge NMFS to immediately issue updated regulations to save North Atlantic right whales from fast-moving vessels.

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