The hopes for the North Atlantic right whale, a critically endangered species, grew dimmer Friday as a calf washed ashore dead on a barrier island off of North Carolina, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
It was the first documented newborn of the calving season, and the service says every new birth is crucial to the species avoiding extinction.
The service estimated there were just 366 of the whales alive in January 2019, including just 94 breeding females, making them one of the rarest mammals in the world. Scientists at the Fisheries Service told the Globe in October that as little as one death per year threatens the survival of the species.
A team of scientists examined the calf on the remote island off of North Carolina on Saturday and found no evidence of human interaction. Initial results suggested that the calf died during birth or shortly after.
A group of right whales was seen off of Nantucket on Aug. 31, prompting the federal government to instruct boaters to move slowly south of the island or avoid the area entirely.
A mother whale was found dying, entangled in fishing gear, 45 miles south of Nantucket in February.