We were SO close.
We were so close.
Because of the past couple of years, June makes me incredibly nervous.
In June of 2019, I heard the news of two right whale deaths in one day, only to find out about another soon after. June seems to be prime time for right whales to be accidentally killed by passing ships or through accidental entanglements in fishing gear as, of the 31 right whales who were killed since 2017, almost half were found in the month of June. As the days ticked away this month, I was cautiously optimistic.
We were so close.
Just five more days, just 120 more hours and we would close out June without a dead right whale. Tragically, it looks like that ship sailed, and it probably hit and killed a right whale as it did.
I am devastated to say that this morning, a dead right whale was located in the waters off of New Jersey.
Update: NOAA has confirmed the identity of the dead North Atlantic right whale as the male calf of right whale #3560. He was the first calf sighted this year.
That made him only around 7 months old when he died.
A necropsy (animal autopsy) was done on June 29th and they found he had evidence of at least two separate vessel collisions. Their were several propeller wounds along the head, chest and back that were a few weeks old. Then, they found a second series of wounds that look like they were inflicted by a vessel across the tail.
We were so close.
The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has spent the better part of the past three years coming up with a plan to reduce accidental entanglements of right whales in fishing gear. It’s likely to be another year before it is released and right whales are dying in the interim. Unfortunately, further efforts to reduce ship strikes in US waters have not yet been discussed.
There have been no confirmed right whale deaths so far in 2020, however that doesn’t mean right whales haven’t already seen their share of trauma this year.
In early January, a newborn right whale calf (baby) who was off of Florida was seriously injured by the propeller of a boat, literally slicing its face in half. I shiver as I write those words. The agony of writing them cannot possibly compare to the pain felt by this newborn, or his or her mom, who undoubtedly witnessed the strike.
The calf survived the initial strike but hasn’t been seen since scientists attempted to remotely inject antibiotics in a desperate attempt to save one of only 10 new babies born this year. Few of the veterinarians I'd spoken to hold out hope for the calf but I have to – I have to hope for a miracle because there is no miracle for the right whale found dead today. I can only hope if this whale was killed by a ship strike that he or she died instantly and that they did not suffer.
Two possible dead right whales from vessel strikes this year? NMFS says that even one death each year will jeopardize the recovery of the entire species. Yet, as the Agency labors through efforts to address entanglements, it has done nothing to further reduce ship strikes. Addressing one threat without the other, is like removing the crocodile from your salt water pool, but letting the shark stay. Right whales deserve better.
As we learn more details, we will be sure to keep you updated.
For those of you living in the US, send a quick email to your senators and asking them to co-sponsor the SAVE Right Whales Act, you can make a huge difference with less than a minute of your time.
We have already drafted an email for you, all you have to do is click send.
The SAVE Right Whales Act would provide 5 million dollars each year for 10 years towards the protection of North Atlantic right whales. Right whales are dying from avoidable threats and the solutions exist to solve them, we just need necessary funding to make them happen. To learn more about the SAVE Right Whales Act, visit our FAQ.
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