North Atlantic Right Whale Calf Found Dead off Georgia

Death toll rising from boat strikes as U.S. government continues to delay critical update to vessel speed rule

Press Release Date: March 5, 2024

Contacts: Megan Jordan,, 703.401.3004; Vaishali Dassani, +1 647.294.3335

SAVANNAH, GA/OTTAWA, CANADA – Another dead North Atlantic right whale was discovered off Georgia’s coast this week. This whale, identified as Juno’s calf, was the first calf spotted this calving season off South Carolina in November. In early January, the calf was sighted off South Carolina with serious injuries to its head and mouth from a boat estimated by NOAA to be between 35–57 feet in length. Experts expected these serious injuries to be fatal.

Although it was a smaller boat that killed this whale, Oceana’s previous analysis found nearly 80% of ships subject to mandatory speed limits (65 feet and over) violated these limits during the period Juno’s calf was struck by a boat and left with critical injuries. Oceana says an updated vessel speed rule covering smaller boats and increased enforcement are both necessary to save North Atlantic right whales.

In response to the news, Oceana released the following statements:

“Just weeks ago, we were on Tybee Island mourning the loss of a juvenile North Atlantic right whale that was killed by a boat strike, and here we are again with another preventable tragedy on Georgia’s shores. When will this heartbreaking cycle of death end?” said Hermina Glass-Hill, Oceana’s senior field representative in Georgia. “Juno’s newborn calf offered hope for critically endangered North Atlantic right whales to recover, and because of the human-caused threats they face, that chance is gone. In the first few weeks of its short life, this calf’s face was sliced open by a boat propeller, causing painful and prolonged suffering which sadly resulted in its death. Our government already knows what to do to protect these critically endangered whales, so why are they sitting on it? Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and President Biden need to immediately release the updated vessel speed rule their own agency proposed nearly two years ago. Until they do, this right whale’s death, and the future ones to come, are on their watch.”

“The devastating news of another right whale death – this time the newborn calf of Juno – is a reminder that North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction,” said Kim Elmslie, campaign director at Oceana in Canada. “The calf’s entire short life was marked by tragedy. The calf was struck by a ship at only a month old and suffered from severe injuries until its death. The Canadian and U.S. governments must do more to protect this critically endangered population, including mandatory vessel slowdowns across their full migration route and a swift transition to ropeless and on-demand fishing gear to protect whales and Canada’s access to lucrative U.S seafood markets under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Failure to do this essentially guarantees their extinction before our eyes.”


North Atlantic right whales were a frequent target of whalers as they were often found near shore, swim slowly, and tend to float when killed. They were aggressively hunted, and their population dropped from peak estimates of up to 21,000 to perhaps fewer than 100 by the 1920s. After whaling of North Atlantic right whales was banned in 1935, their population increased to as many as 483 individuals in 2010. Unfortunately, that progress has reversed.

Entanglements in fishing gear used to catch lobster, crab, and other species is another leading cause of North Atlantic right whale deaths. Around one-quarter of the population is entangled in fishing gear from the U.S. and Canada each year, and about 85% have been entangled at least once. Ropes have been seen wrapped around their mouths, fins, tails, and bodies, which slow them down; make it difficult to swim, reproduce, and feed; and can cause death. The lines cut into the whales’ flesh, leading to life-threatening infections, and are so strong that they have severed fins and tails, and cut into bone.

Collisions with boats is a leading cause of North Atlantic right whale injury and death. They are slow, swimming around 6 miles (or 9.5 kilometres) per hour, usually near the water’s surface. Mother calf pairs are especially susceptible to vessel strikes because they spend more time at the surface. They are also dark in color and lack a dorsal fin, making them very difficult to spot. Studies have found that the speed of a vessel is a major factor in vessel-related collisions with North Atlantic right whales. At high speeds, vessels cannot maneuver to avoid them, and they swim too slowly to be able to move out of the way. This puts them at great risk of being struck, which can cause deadly injuries from blunt-force trauma or cuts from propellers.

To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to save North Atlantic right whales from extinction, please  click here.

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 300 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit to learn more.