Watch CBS News

Young right whale found dead off Martha's Vineyard beach; Species "approaching extinction"

North Atlantic right whales spotted in Cape Cod Bay
North Atlantic right whales spotted in Cape Cod Bay 00:26

EDGARTOWN - An endangered North Atlantic right whale was found dead off Martha's Vineyard this weekend - yet another blow for a species that a federal agency says is "approaching extinction."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said its fisheries division was notified Sunday afternoon of a dead female right whale near Joseph Sylvia State Beach. 

The whale has not been identified yet but it's believed to be a juvenile because of its size, and rope could be seen tangled around its tail. Boat strikes and fishing gear entanglement are the top threats to the species, in addition to climate change. A necropsy will be performed when weather conditions improve, NOAA said.

The dead whale's tail was entangled in rope. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Michael Moore

"North Atlantic right whales are approaching extinction with approximately 360 individuals remaining, including fewer than 70 reproductively active females," NOAA said.

Right whales seen recently in Cape Cod Bay

The tragic news for the whale population comes after researchers spotted the first right whales of the season in Cape Cod Bay.

On January 24, researchers with the Center for Coastal Studies observed between four and seven right whales in the bay, swimming right below the surface. Two whales were seen feeding near the Wood End Lighthouse in Provincetown.

More surveys by boat and plane are planned in the coming weeks to monitor the right whale population in Cape Cod Bay. 

The public should stay 150 feet away from any injured or stranded whales, NOAA said. Sightings should be reported to the Greater Atlantic Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at (866) 755-6622 and the Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at (877) WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343).

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.