Entangled North Atlantic Right Whale Spotted off New Jersey

October 13, 2020

We received a new report of an entangled North Atlantic right whale on October 12, 2020. We will update this page as we have news.

Entangled North Atlantic right whale at the surface, seen off of New Jersey on October 11 Entangled North Atlantic right whale spotted off New Jersey on October 11. Credit: Artie Raslich/Gotham Whale

October 20, 2020

Yesterday, two aerial survey teams searched for #4680. A team from the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society searched the New York Bight area and a team from the Center for Coastal Studies searched the area south of Nantucket. Neither team spotted #4680. At this point, we are suspending actively searching for #4680, but we ask that mariners keep an eye out for this whale, and immediately report any sightings of this and any other right whale to 866-755-6622 or to VHF Ch 16.

October 16, 2020

New England Aquarium has identified the whale as #4680, a 4-year-old male calf of the right whale known as Dragon. The last known sighting of #4680 was on July 7, 2020, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and at the time the whale was gear-free. 

We are still looking for a good weather window in the next few days to get a team in the air. The team will try and locate the whale and further document its entanglement and injuries.

We ask that all mariners in the New Jersey and New York area keep an eye out for this whale and report any sightings immediately to (866) 755-6622 or Coast Guard Channel 16.

October 14, 2020

We are still looking for a good weather window to get a team into the air to try and locate the whale and further document its entanglement and injuries, but the current marine forecast makes this unlikely for a few more days. Mariners off New Jersey: Please keep an eye out for this whale and report any sightings immediately to (866) 755-6622 or Coast Guard Channel 16.

October 13, 2020

On Monday, October 12, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey notified us that naturalists aboard the American Princess, a New York-based whale watch, spotted a North Atlantic right whale at around 2 p.m. on October 11. The sighting was approximately 2.7 nautical miles east of Sea Bright, New Jersey. While reviewing their photos after the end of the trip, naturalists from Gotham Whale observed entangling lines on the whale. They have shared their photos, and the New England Aquarium is working on identifying the whale. At this point, the Center for Coastal Studies believes this may be a new (previously unreported) case.

From the photos, biologists believe that the whale is in extremely poor condition, with large lesions on its body. The whale has two visible lines partially embedded around its head and likely has a more complex entanglement that needs additional documentation. 

Working with the Center for Coastal Studies and Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, we are looking for a good weather window to document the whale’s location, full entanglement configuration, and injuries from the air, and hope to get a team in the air soon. After that, we will determine what actions we may be able to take for this whale. 

We will provide updates as we get more information. 

An Unusual Mortality Event (UME) was declared for North Atlantic right whales in 2017 and is ongoing. Over the past 3 years, 31 whales in Canada and the United States have been documented dead and, including this new entangled whale, an additional 11 have been documented alive but with serious injuries (42 whales total). Most of the mortalities or injuries have been attributed to either ship strikes or entanglements. Given there are only ~400 individual North Atlantic right whales remaining, those 42 individuals in the UME represent at minimum 10 percent of the population, which is a significant negative impact on such a critically endangered species.

If you see a marine animal in distress from Maine to Virginia, please call (866) 755-6622, or, if you are outside this area, the appropriate contact number for your location. As always, keep people and pets back a safe distance of at least 150 feet from marine animals, and keep boats and drones 500 yards away from endangered North Atlantic right whales. To find out how you can help, please contact your local stranding network partner.

 

Last updated by Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office on October 20, 2020