The right whale is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and there are only around 400 of them remaining.
This is the beginning of the right whale’s calving season, which begins mid-November and runs through mid-April. NOAA called this death a “devastating” start to the season.
There was no indication of human interaction as a factor in the calf’s death, according to NOAA. This species of whale has been experiencing an Unusual Mortality Event over the past three years, according to NOAA. Since 2017, at least 32 dead and 13 seriously injured whales have been documented by the organization.
The leading cause in the whales deaths and injuries involve human interaction including vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.
NOAA posted a news release on Monday, the same day they announced the calf’s death, warning boaters to be vigilant as the whales are migrating nearly 1,000 miles along the Atlantic Coast.
Dwindling female population
Calving season is extremely important for the species to regain population numbers. The female right whale population is dwindling due to entanglements and vessel strikes, according to NOAA. There are only around 100 females remaining.
One of the reasons that biologist believe females are calving less often, according to NOAA, is the additional stress that entanglements have on the whales.
There were only 22 births, which is about one-third of the average annual birth rate, in the past three calving seasons, according to NOAA.