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© Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, taken under NOAA permit #24359. Aerial survey funded by United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Conservation Groups Decry Yet Another Preventable Right Whale Death

April 2, 2024 - Contact: Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, (508) 451-3853, [email protected] Jeremy...

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© Forever Hooked Charters of South Carolina, injured North Atlantic right whale 2024 calf of Juno (#1612) seen with injuries on the head, mouth, and left lip consistent with vessel strike.

Conservation groups continue bid to lift stay in right whale vessel speed rule case

March 15, 2024 - Contact: Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, (508) 451-3853, [email protected] Catherine...

Critically endangered North Atlantic right whale calf likely to die from vessel strike injuries

January 10, 2024 —

Contact:

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, (508) 451-3853, [email protected]

Jake O’Neill, Conservation Law Foundation, (617) 850-1709, [email protected]

Kristen Monsell, Center for Biological Diversity, (914) 806-3467, [email protected]

Critically endangered North Atlantic right whale calf likely to die from vessel strike injuries

Lack of speed rule, political inaction led to catastrophic strike

© Forever Hooked Charters of South Carolina, injured North Atlantic right whale 2024 calf of Juno (#1612) seen with injuries on the head, mouth, and left lip consistent with vessel strike.
© Forever Hooked Charters of South Carolina, injured North Atlantic right whale 2024 calf of Juno (#1612) seen with injuries on the head, mouth, and left lip consistent with vessel strike.

EDISTO, S.C. A two-month-old right whale calf whose head, mouth, and lips were split open by a boat’s propeller was seen off South Carolina on January 6. Fishermen who sighted the calf recognized that the whale was injured and provided the video and images they obtained to NOAA Fisheries.

According to today’s announcement from the Agency, the calf is not expected to survive and is one of only nine calves born to the species so far this year. Wound analyses of the images are under way to estimate the size of the vessel that struck the calf. Preliminary results indicate it was not a large ship.

The real tragedy here is that this was preventable,” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation. “Juno is doing her job by having babies but politics are killing them faster than she can reproduce. It’s inexcusable.

North Atlantic right whales are a critically endangered species with fewer than 360 remaining. Vessel strikes are one of two primary threats to the species’ existence, along with accidental entanglements in commercial fishing gear. Right whales begin giving birth to calves around mid-November and the season lasts until mid-April. Both females and calves in southeastern waters are especially vulnerable during that time.

In November 2022 and again in October 2023, conservation groups filed for emergency petitions to protect vulnerable mothers and calves in their southeast calving habitat. NOAA Fisheries denied both petitions citing their proposed release of an updated speed rule that, albeit strengthened, has been delayed for at least two years with no release date in place.

This calf was the first calf sighted during the calving season when researchers documented “Juno” (right whale #1612) off South Carolina with this, her 8th known calf. According to researchers at the New England Aquarium, Juno’s life has been marred by tragedy with her family having sustained at least 24 entanglement events and two previous vessel strikes.

There are so few right whales left that every death brings this species closer to extinction,” said CLF Senior Attorney Erica Fuller. “This calf isn’t even two months old and yet it’s not expected to live because the federal government has delayed meaningful action for more than a decade. NOAA needs to publish its final rule immediately and protect this majestic species before it disappears from our oceans forever.

With a declining population and only 70 breeding females, the North Atlantic right whale will almost certainly go extinct without key conservation measures. Current regulations are not sufficient to protect the whales, and changes proposed by NOAA Fisheries are unlikely to go into effect before the end of this year’s calving season.

Right whale calves are a crucial sign of hope and recovery for the species, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking that one has been hit by a vessel,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “What makes this tragedy even worse is that the whale calf could have been saved by a speed limit rule like the one we’ve been pushing for. The federal government keeps dragging its feet at the expense of these critically endangered whales."

 November 28, 2023 - Juno (#1612) and newborn calf © Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, taken under NOAA permit #26919. Funded by US Army Corps of Engineers
November 28, 2023 - Juno (#1612) and newborn calf © Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, taken under NOAA permit #26919. Funded by US Army Corps of Engineers

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Conservation Law Foundation is a regional, nonprofit organization that protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. We use the law, science and the market to create solutions that preserve our natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy.

WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, is the leading international charity dedicated solely to the worldwide conservation and welfare of all whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

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