Newborn North Atlantic right whale suffers injuries

The North Atlantic right whale "Derecha" and her injured calf handout (custom credit)/FWC, NOAA permit number 20556-01

A newborn North Atlantic right whale, thought to be the season’s fourth whale calf of the critically endangered species, is already injured, possibly from a boat’s propeller, according to federal authorities.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service said in a statement that the calf was spotted about eight nautical miles off Georgia Wednesday with “two roughly parallel and s-shaped injuries” that were consistent with “the propeller of a vessel.”

According to NOAA, experts estimated that the newborn was just days old and that the wounds were perhaps hours old.

“The injuries are concerning because of the severity and location of the wounds,” read NOAA’s statement. “One of the injuries appears to include damage to the calf’s mouth, which could hamper its ability to nurse and feed.”

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s most endangered large whale species, according to federal authorities, with only about 400 whales remaining.

The calf’s mother, “Derecha,” is at least 27 years old. She was first seen in 1993 and this season’s calf is her fourth calf. She last gave birth in 2010, according to NOAA.

Authorities were working Thursday to find the mother and calf pair in order to assess the calf’s condition.

NOAA is asking anyone with information regarding the calf’s injuries and additional sightings to contact 1-877-WHALE-HELP. Officials said the vessel that struck the animal likely has propeller damage.

Mother and calf pairs spend the majority of their time at, or a few feet below the water’s surface in waters off the southeast of the United States.

Federal authorities said that law requires staying away at least 500 yards by air, which includes drones, and by sea.

“The protection of these animals is literally in the hands of all mariners on the water and all businesses that service those vessels,” said NOAA in its statement.

At least 10 of the whales were found dead last year.

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