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Sad News: 43-Foot Right Whale in Maine Died Due to Entanglement

Sep 27, 2016 04:07 AM EDT

A 43-foot female right whale was found dead off the coast of Maine last Sept. 23, 2016. The carcass of the whale was severely tangled in fishing ropes, suggesting that entanglement is one of the contributing factors of the whale's death.

"We feel like the entanglement played a pretty significant role in the whale's death," said Jennifer Goebel, a spokeswoman for NOAA's Greater Atlantic Region in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in a report from Portland Press Herald. "It was severe. There was gear wrapped around the whale's head (and mouth), its flippers and its tail." Fishing gear ropes can restrict a whale's movement over time and lead to its death."

The carcass of the whale was first spotted by people aboard a whale-watching ship coast off Boothbay Harbor. Maine Marine Patrol quickly dispatched a boat crew after the sighting was reported. The crew from the Marine Patrol towed the body from Boothbay Harbor to Cape Small, off the coast of Phippsburg. A 47-foot Coast Guard boat helped the patrol team tow the whale by its tail to Portland Harbor, which took them about five hours.

The dead right whale was then loaded to a truck flatbed provided by Smith Trucking and Excavation of Gorham to be transported at Benson Farm in Gorham.

According to the report from WMTW, the whale carcass will be left in the farm for composting, while the bones will be turned over to federal officials. Researchers from different agencies and organizations around the country have come to the farm to collect tissue sample and perform necropsy.

While the official cause of death is not yet announced, officials cited severe entanglement as a contributing factor.

Entanglements became the most prevalent cause of death of North Atlantic right whales in 2015, with about 85 percent of whale deaths between 2010 and 2015 linked to entanglement.

At present, right whales remain to be the rarest and most endangered type of great whales protected by Endangered Species Act. There are only about 500 remaining individuals in the North Atlantic.

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