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

North Atlantic right whale 2024 calf of Juno (#1612) with injuries.
North Atlantic right whale 2024 calf of Juno (#1612) with injuries © Forever Hooked Charters of South Carolina

A young right whale calf with life threatening injuries has been spotted by fishers off the coast of South Carolina in the US.

The two-month-old whale was reported to have severe cuts to his or her head, mouth, and lips cause by a boat’s propeller.  The fishers who sighted the calf recognized that the whale was injured and provided the video and images they obtained to NOAA Fisheries - the government organisation responsible for conserving and managing US coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

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.

Every one of the North Atlantic right whales are particularly precious as they are a critically endangered species with fewer than 360 remaining. Vessel strikes are one of two primary threats to the species’ survival, along with accidental entanglements in commercial fishing gear (bycatch). 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.