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North Atlantic right whale found dead off Cape Cod, 16th death this year

A North Atlantic right whale was found decomposing off Cape Cod Monday.D. Peros/US Coast Guard

A North Atlantic right whale was found decomposing on an island off Cape Cod Monday, adding yet another death for the endangered species that has seen “an alarming number of deaths” this year, the International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement.

The IFAW reported the dead whale Monday afternoon. The organization said it would work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine the cause of death, despite the animal’s decomposed state.

“Tragically, today we received a report of a dead North Atlantic right whale on Nashawena Island, south of Cape Cod,” the IFAW said. “The whale is very decomposed but our team is putting forth every effort, alongside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to try to determine the cause of death.”


Per NOAA’s count, the whale found Monday would be at least the 16th North Atlantic right whale to die this year in US and Canadian waters. That is far more than the four reported in 2016 or three in 2015.

That uptick in deaths among the whales — whose total population is in the low hundreds — led NOAA to declare the unusual mortality event for the species earlier this year.

“Time is of the essence and we must work together to determine how to best protect this critically endangered species,” the IFAW said.

Last weekend, scientists met in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium to discuss the species’ protection.

Ben Thompson can be reached at ben.thompson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Globe_Thompson.