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Marine Mammal Experts Come Together in Attempt to Save Critically Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale Calf

January 14, 2020
SeaWorld joins NOAA, FWC and others in mission to save calf struck by vessel

SeaWorld joins NOAA, FWC and others in mission to save calf struck by vessel


Efforts to monitor and assess a critically endangered  and seriously injured North Atlantic right whale calf are underway by a team of marine mammal experts, including SeaWorld, off the east coast near Brunswick, Georgia. The calf is just one of four born this calving season to a population of whales believed to number less than 430 individuals, a number critically low to sustain the species, and making the survival of every whale imperative. 


The approximately week old calf  has significant wounds consistent with a vessel strikeThe injuries are concerning because of the severity and location of the wounds. One of the injuries appears to include damage to the calf's mouth which could hamper its ability to nurse and feed.


SeaWorld’s Dr. Hendrik Nollens is one of the lead veterinarians on the mission, which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Georgia Department of Natural ResourcesIFAW and Blue World Research Institute (BWRI). The current plan is to locate the mother and calf pair and obtain images in order to update the assessment of the calf's injuries, condition and behavior.  Antibiotics may be delivered if warranted. 

An Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale Calf

North Atlantic right whales migrate from the waters off New England and Nova Scotia to the waters off the coast of Florida and Georgia during the winter for a calving season.   The two most significant threats to the survival of these whales are vessel strikes and entanglement in fixed fishing gear. This past December the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund announced it had committed $900,000 in the fight to save this critically endangered species.  In partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) the funding will be primarily used to test alternative non-lethal fishing gear to help avoid these fatal entanglements.


For more updates on the status of the North Atlantic right whale calf, reference the NOAA page here.


Photos taken under NOAA Permit 18786-04