A female two- to three-month-old rare North Atlantic Right Whale calf was found dead in Cape Cod Bay on Thursday. She was one of only four calves born this year to a species in sharp decline. Researchers and whale lovers are especially distressed that the calf was a female, as they are the future of the population.
The calf was found north of Barnstable and was towed to Sesuit Harbor. Cause of death is unknown and a necropsy is planned.
As you may or may not have been following, there have been a record number of Right Whales currently making their home in the waters off Cape Cod, not because there are more whales, but because of the wealth of zooplankton. Each spring, Right Whales return to Cape Cod to feed on tiny crustaceans such as krill. Right Whales are the rarest of all large whale species, with only approximately 500 known world wide. They are endangered for several reasons. Right Whales never fully recovered from being heavily hunted during the whaling era. They have a high blubber content, which makes them float when killed, and produce a high yield of whale oil. Secondly, because they feed slowly by skimming at the photic zone of the ocean, at the upper surface of the water, they are vulnerable to ship strikes and to becoming entangled in fishing gear.
The best place too see Right Whales at this time of year is from Cape Cod beaches, according to Charles “Stormy” Mayo, director of the Right Whale Ecology Program at the Center for Coastal Studies. They may be as close as 150 feet from the shore, which is closer than can be seen from research boats.
Photo courtesy CapeCod.com
GMG FOB Dave Moore shares the following from National Geographic. The recent article (March 10) is very interesting and relevant: “How Many Right Whales Do We Miss.”