Scientists Investigating Endangered Whale That Washed Up on Northeast Florida Coast

The North Atlantic right whale is about 30 feet long

By Edward B. Colby
|  Wednesday, Dec 19, 2012  |  Updated 4:18 PM EDT
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Barb Zoodsma/NOAA Fisheries

A backhoe moved the right whale further up the beach on Wednesday.

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A dead right whale has washed up on the northeast Florida coast, just a few days after a deceased sperm whale came ashore in Deerfield Beach.

The North Atlantic right whale – which is one of the most endangered whale species in the world – washed up overnight in Flagler Beach.

“We have a team now out there that is either starting or preparing to do a necropsy,” NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Allison Garrett said Wednesday afternoon.

The whale is about 30 feet long and “is in an advanced state of decomposition,” she said.

Representatives from NOAA Fisheries, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute are on the scene to try and determine the cause of death, Garrett said.

A backhoe moved the 1-year-old whale up on the beach for the necropsy.

There are as few as 360 or so North Atlantic right whales left, making the protection of each whale crucial for the recovery of the species, NOAA says. The whales can be found year-round from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, but pregnant females travel each fall to the waters off the southeast U.S. coast to give birth and nurse their young.

The one in Flagler Beach wasn’t old enough to reproduce, said Barb Zoodsma of NOAA Fisheries.

There have been no further sightings of the sperm whale that was towed out to sea from Deerfield Beach Monday, Garrett said.

NOAA Fisheries asks people to report sightings of dead, injured, or entangled whales by calling 1-877-WHALE-HELP or 877-433-8299.

Below: Barb Zoodsma of NOAA Fisheries also took this photo of the whale on the beach.

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