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Rare right whale recently seen off Massachusetts is entangled for the 5th time

Whale watching season begins in Boston after delay
Whale watching season begins in Boston after delay 00:25

BOSTON - An endangered North Atlantic right whale is entangled in Canadian waters, just a month after she was spotted off Massachusetts.

The female known as Shelagh was recently seen towing fishing gear in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Before that, the last known sighting of the whale was by New England Aquarium and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution researchers in Cape Cod Bay on April 8. 

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, crews will try to disentangle Shelagh from the fishing gear if she is spotted again. 

Fifth entanglement for Shelagh the whale

This is the fifth entanglement for Shelagh, whose age is unknown. Last April, she was seen in Cape Cod Bay with "severe entanglement injuries to her head and around her tail," the aquarium said.

Shelagh the right whale in Cape Cod Bay on April 8, 2024. New England Aquarium/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, taken under NMFS permit #27066

"Shelagh's fifth entanglement in 10 years highlights the risk right whales are facing every day as these whales overlap with fixed fishing gear throughout their range," aquarium senior scientist Amy Knowlton said in a statement. "Efforts to implement changes broadly to fishing gear, including a shift to ropeless or "on demand" gear and weaker ropes, in both Canada and the U.S. are essential to ensure this species does not go extinct."

Threats to right whale population

It's believed there are fewer than 360 right whales left on Earth. Boat strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two of the biggest threats facing the endangered population.

Last month, an entangled adult male whale was spotted about 50 miles off Rhode Island's Block Island. And in January, a young female right whale washed up dead on a Martha's Vineyard beach. Scientists say that whale died after getting caught in fishing rope from Maine. 

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