Critically Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale Calf Left with Serious Injuries After Ship Strike
Press Release Date: January 10, 2024
Ottawa, traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People — On January 6, 2024, a North Atlantic right whale calf was found seriously injured off Edisto, South Carolina, due to a vessel strike – a leading cause of death for this near-extinct whale, putting the species chances of survival at even greater risk. The calf suffered several serious propeller wounds to the head, mouth and left lip, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is devastatingly expected to die. Below is Oceana Canada’s response from campaign director Kim Elmslie:
“This is heart-breaking news that a rare right whale calf – once a sign of hope for the survival of this critically endangered whale, in the face of ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear – is now on the brink of death due to another vessel strike
This tragic event underscores the urgent need for continued, strong and mandatory measures to safeguard these whales. Right whales with calves are more susceptible to vessel strikes as they spend most of their time at the surface of the water nursing. Because they are dark in colour and don’t have a dorsal fin, they are very difficult to see and avoid, which is why slowing vessels down is so important to protect them. With a population of just 356 North Atlantic right whales, each loss significantly impacts on the already fragile population. Since 2017 a shocking 36 North Atlantic right whales have died.
The first sighting of this calf was with its mother, Juno, on November 28, 2023 off the coast of South Carolina, and later on December 9, 2023 near Florida. It is unknown at this time if Juno is injured.
The Canadian government and the shipping and fishing industries must do everything in their power to protect these whales from ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement. Vessel slowdowns must be permanent, mandatory and in place across right whales’ full migration route. Transitioning to ropeless and on-demand fishing gear allows fishing to continue without putting whales at risk of entanglement, and safeguards access to lucrative international seafood markets as required under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act We must protect these whales from extinction.”
Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to ban single-use plastics, end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future. Find out more at www.oceana.ca.