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Endangered whale washes ashore in Virginia Beach, fourth death in the region so far this year

NOAA says that this latest death was a North Atlantic right whale, which is an endangered species.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A whale was confirmed to be dead on the shores of Virginia Beach near the Bayside area on Monday. 

Officials with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) said that the whale was a North Atlantic right whale.

This is a species that is considered to be endangered because it's harder to detect in water due to its dark color and lack of a dorsal fin. 

A spokeswoman with NOAA said the whale has been identified as a 20-year-old, 43-foot male. She said the VAQS team is assembling resources to secure the animal for examination, with support from stranding network partners, the City of Virginia Beach, and NOAA Fisheries.

To read more about current concerns that conservationists have about the declining North Atlantic right whale population, click here.

A necropsy is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, but NOAA said that this process will be delicate, and results will take time due to the endangered status of the whale. 

Credit: Jeanne Kringlen.
North Atlantic right whale death in VB, near Aeries on the Bay.

The spokeswoman said they ask the public to maintain a safe distance from the whale. They also want people to report all stranded marine mammals and sea turtles to NOAA’s marine mammal and sea turtle stranding hotline at 866-755-6622 to be directed to a trained responder.

This is the second death of the North Atlantic right whale species in the region since the beginning of 2023, and the fourth reported whale death in the region overall.

On January 8, an entangled 4-year-old female right whale was located off the coast of North Carolina near Rodanthe. She was said to be seriously injured when she was found, and officials said she would likely die. 

According to NOAA, researchers estimate there are less than 70 reproductively active females remaining within the right whale species.

Two humpback whales have also been found on the coastline this year so far. 

In January, one was discovered to have washed up on Assateague Island in Maryland. 

Just last week, on February 8, crews pulled the other, a young humpback whale, ashore near First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach.

NOAA Officials said another humpback whale was found in Cape Charles on February 10. They said initial photos show that the animal may have been dead for several days. 

The Virginia Aquarium stranding response team worked with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission on February 11 to do a boat-based examination of the carcass and collect basic information on its length, sex, and look for any obvious wounds or scars. They said the female whale was significantly decomposed. As a result, a full necropsy was not possible. 


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