The carcass of a North Atlantic right whale has been found off the coast of the United States — the first of the summer and the second overall in 2018.
The U.S. Coast Guard first received a report of a floating whale carcass located at Tom’s Neck Point off Martha’s Vineyard on Sunday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told Global News on Wednesday.
Scientists later confirmed the remains were those of a North Atlantic right whale, an endangered species that saw 18 members of the species die in waters off Canada and the United States in 2017.
It’s estimated there are roughly 450 right whales left in the world and with only 100 of them being breeding females, that number is declining.
The carcass was spotted on Tuesday with the coast guard providing a vessel to bring a small team of NOAA scientists to the carcass.
“They applied a solar-powered satellite tag to monitor the location of the animal. They also took a tissue sample, which may help us learn more about this whale,” said Jennie Lyons, a spokesperson for NOAA.
However, the carcass is too decomposed to make it a candidate to be towed to shore where a necropsy could be performed.
Officials say they are continuing to monitor the remains with the tag and will perform additional sampling if the animal lands on a beach this week.
NOAA says they located the carcass of a North Atlantic right whale off the coast of Virginia in January.
No carcasses have been found in Canadian waters this year but multiple whales have been spotted in the Bay of Fundy.
Since 2017, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has taken action to limit the number of whales that become entangled in fishing gear — one of the possible causes for the recent spate of deaths.
There have been speed limits imposed on vessels in some areas, there are new regulations on the use and identification of fishing gear, and a number of fishing zones have seen temporary closures as a result of whales spotted in the area.