An endangered right whale calf who entered this world just months ago will likely die as a result of gruesome head trauma sustained by a boat or ship’s propeller striking them.1 The calf’s head, mouth, and lips were split open as a result of the trauma caused by the vessel’s propeller.
The whale calf was with its mother, “Juno,” who was likely teaching it to swim at the time of the injury. The birth of the calf last November to this experienced mother raised hope for the species’ future.
North Atlantic right whales are the world’s most endangered large whale species. Each one of them is crucial to their survival. The probable loss of this whale is a substantial setback for this species and for the mother–Juno. I can’t imagine the heartbreak and pain of seeing your child struck and maimed by a boat or ship. This tragedy is horrific and it was preventable.
Vessel speed rules that conservation organizations have repeatedly asked the Biden Administration to enact have been just as repeatedly denied. Lower speeds result in fewer collisions or propeller strikes. Both the boat’s pilot and whales have more time to react. But the sportfishing and recreational boating industries have worked the Administration to continue to deny and delay any new speed limits.
Preliminary results from NOAA’s examination of the wounds indicate that the calf was maimed by a boat that the vessel speed rule would have applied to. The Administration’s delay is costing whales their lives.
The Administration said that it is in the process of finalizing a speed limit rule but has moved with no urgency and has offered no date when it should be expected. Fewer than 70 breeding right whales are alive today. These animals do not have time to wait while the Administration summons the courage to take on special interests and protect these whales. This rule could be issued immediately–the size and speed limits needed are established and need only be issued and enforced.
We are working with our partner organizations to keep the pressure on NOAA NMFS to act to prevent vessel strikes and to save whales from deadly entanglements in fishing gear. These are the leading causes of human-caused death an injury for right whales and they are both threats that we can control. Please support our work to save North Atlantic right whales and other endangered species with a gift today.
Thank you for your commitment to wildlife and wild places.