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Entangled right whale spotted off New England; rescue attempt planned

31 critically endangered whales right whales spotted off Nantucket
31 critically endangered whales right whales spotted off Nantucket 00:31

BLOCK ISLAND, R.I. - Marine biologists are monitoring an entangled North Atlantic right whale about 50 miles off Rhode Island's Block Island and will try to rescue it if conditions allow.

NOAA Fisheries, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the whale was spotted Tuesday by an aerial survey team. The adult male was first observed as a calf in 2011, and he was seen unencumbered in Cape Cod Bay just last month. 

"Whale's overall condition is good"

The adult male had rope coming out of both sides of his mouth, but he can swim freely because it is not wrapped around his entire body. The incident is being categorized as a sublethal injury.

The entangled whale seen off Block Island. NOAA Fisheries. Taken under NOAA permit #24359

"Fortunately, the whale's overall condition is good, and he was observed feeding during the aerial sighting," NOAA said.

A crew could not immediately get to the whale because it's a long way off shore. A spokesperson for the Provincetown-based Center for Coastal Studies said they have alerted their network in the area to help find the whale now.

Entanglement can be deadly for whales

Vessel strikes and entanglement are leading causes of death for the critically endangered species.

In January, a young female right whale washed up dead on a Martha's Vineyard beach. Investigators determined the rope found "deeply embedded" in the whale's tail came from fishing gear in Maine.

There are estimated to be fewer than 360 North Atlantic right whales left in the world. A federally protected species once numerous in the Atlantic waters the whales' numbers have struggled to rebound after being decimated by commercial whalers. The population fell about 25% from 2010 to 2020, the AP reported.

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