#44: Right Whale Struck by NOAA Vessel off Cape Cod

On Sunday April 19th, a NOAA vessel struck a North Atlantic right whale Off Scituate, MA as they were returning to shore from a research cruise. Photographs taken by the crew were compared to those taken just two days earlier by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and together we were able to identify the whale.

It is a female that is so new to our database that it has yet to receive a catalog number. She was first seen in January 2006 off the coast of Florida and we believe she may be a calf from 2004 or 2005. Since her sightings off Florida 2006, she has only been seen off Cape Cod--in April of 2006, 2008, and 2009. We believe and hope that she sustained only superficial wounds from the incident, but will be eagerly awaiting photographs from the next sighting to confirm that.

The incident underscores the danger these animals face. Right whales are particularly susceptible in and around Cape Cod Bay where they spend hours feeding at, or just below, the surface. If the whale had been struck by a larger vessel at that speed, it would have likely been killed. Luckily, a recent regulation slows ships greater than 65 feet in length when they are in right whale habitats. Still, if a research cruise with dedicated observers on the fly-bridge can hit a right whale, it suggests that other, less-experienced mariners have to be even more vigilant.

- Philip

Photo Caption: File photo of a whale next to a large Container ship.
This is not the whale, nor ship, involved in the incident on April 19.


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