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CMAST Participates in Right Whale Necropsy

NOAA – “Dead female North Atlantic right whale #1950 on the beach in Virginia. The necropsy team leaders examine the whale at the landing site, before using the heavy black towing line to bring it ashore. Experts completed a necropsy on April 2, 2024.”  Credit: Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, taken under NOAA permit #24359.

Yet another endangered North Atlantic right whale #1950 turned up deceased last week off the coast of Virginia.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

(NOAA), this is the fortieth North Atlantic right whale to die in the ongoing 2017–2024 North Atlantic Right Whale Unusual Mortality Event.

North Carolina State University’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST) was one of several partners assisting with the necropsy of right whale #1950.  According to Dr. Craig Harms, director of the Marine Health Program at CMAST, “Loss of a reproductive age female (and her calf) is devastating to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale population. An NC State CMAST and NC Division of Marine Fisheries team of Dr. Craig Harms, Dr. Vicky Thayer, Dr. Nick Dannemiller, and Carly McCall participated with many other stranding response partners in the postmortem examination of right whale #1950 that found evidence of catastrophic blunt force trauma consistent with a vessel strike. Line entanglements and vessel strikes are by far the leading causes of right whale injury and death, and could be reduced with policy changes in seasonal vessel speed restrictions and fishing gear modifications.” Read more about this mortality event and North Atlantic Right Whale Updates from NOAA.