Subject: Info: Dead Right Whale found on Cape Cod, MA

Paul D Colombo (
Mon, 11 Mar 1996 15:03:39 +0000

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[Boston Globe][AP on the Globe Online]
[The Boston Globe]

     Right Whale Washes up on Cape Cod Beach; Sixth Dead Right Whale This

     By Associated Press, 03/11/96

     AP Photo


     Associated Press Writer

     BOSTON (AP) - The endangered right whale, a species that once numbered
     in the tens of thousands, is down to around 300. And since January, six
     have been found dead along Eastern shores.

     Saturday, a jogger found a partly decomposed 44-foot northern right
     whale on Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, according to Kathy Shorr, a
     spokeswoman for the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown.

     Five right whales - including three calves - washed up dead along the
     Georgia and Florida coasts earlier this year alone. In all of 1995,
     only two right whales were found dead, Shorr said Sunday.

     The most endangered of all the great whales, the right whale has been
     protected from hunting since 1935 - the longest protection for any
     whale species.

     However despite its protected status, the number of right whales is
     continuing to decrease.

     The right whale in the eastern Atlantic - off the coast of Europe - is
     virtually extinct, she said. A separate, similar species exists only in
     the southern hemisphere.

     Last year, only about seven new calves were seen. So far this year,
     about 14 calves have been identified, but three of them have washed up
     dead, she said.

     A necropsy - an autopsy for whales - is scheduled to be performed by
     the New England Aquarium on the latest casualty Monday.

     Shorr said biologists believe the animal may have been struck by a
     large ship. The whale's spine appeared to be broken. Although fishing
     line was wrapped around the whale, biologists don't believe
     entanglement was the cause of death, Shorr said.

     She said the whale may be a male that was first identified as a
     juvenile in 1992. Its age was unclear Sunday.

     The right whale population recently reappeared in the waters of Cape
     Cod Bay, where they feed off plankton typically between February and
     May. The right whales typically spend the summer months in the chilly
     waters around Nova Scotia. They spend late fall and early winter off
     the waters of northern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, where the
     mothers give birth.

     The animal got its name because it was considered the ``right'' whale
     to hunt. It was slow, stayed close to the surface and floated when
     killed, Shorr said.

     Right whales, along with sperm whales, formed the foundation of the
     American whaling industry.

     The whales were killed for their oil and their baleen, a bristle-like
     material in the mouth for straining food. The oil lit lamps, while
     baleen, or whalebone, was used primarily for fashion, including corsets
     and hoop skirts.

     The whales can grow to 56 feet, weigh 100 tons and live as long as

     Marine biologists have been trying to figure out why, despite its
     federal protections, the species is not rebounding.

     The grey whale, for example, which lives in the eastern north Pacific,
     was taken off the endangered list after its population swelled to more
     than 20,000.

     Of the whales that have been found dead this year, one of them had been
     killed in a collision with a vessel; the causes were unknown in two

     One of the calves appears to have died from Sudden Infant Death
     Syndrome; another died as a result of ``barotrauma,'' which occurs when
     there is a huge shift in the barometric pressure, Shorr said.

     One-third of all right whale deaths in recent years can be attributed
     to vessel collisions and entanglements in fishing gear. The rest are

     Because there are so few right whales, genetic inbreeding may be
     contributing to the population problem, Shorr said.

     AP-DS-03-11-96 0453EST

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