Latest death is second for the 2020-21 season and declared the 34th Unusual Mortality Event
CLEARWATER, FL (March 1, 2021) – On Sunday, officials confirmed the death of a 12-year-old male North Atlantic right whale #3920, known as “Cottontail.” His death marks the second for the 2020-21 season and the 34th Unusual Mortality Event (UME). According to NOAA, the leading category for the cause of death for this UME is “human interaction,” specifically from entanglements or vessel strikes.
The deceased body was located by the South Carolina aerial survey team from Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) on Saturday afternoon 15 miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
First seen entangled in October 2020 by the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) aerial survey team while searching for another entangled right whale south of Nantucket, “Cottontail,” had a line over his head, exiting both sides of his mouth, extending beyond his tail for about three to four body lengths. CCS removed some gear from the whale and added a satellite buoy for tracking.
“Cottontail” hadn’t been seen until February 18, 2021. Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute’s aerial survey team joined partners from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Blue World Research Institute, Marine Resource Council and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute who took to the sky and sea to better assess the animal’s body condition and plan future disentanglement efforts.
“This truly heart-breaking event continues to be a ‘normal’ occurrence”, said Melanie White, North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation Project Manager for CMARI. “We must do more as a society to prevent these tragedies from happening or we will see the last North Atlantic right whale perish, potentially in our lifetime.”
Since 2017, NOAA reports that 48 individuals were likely removed from the population due to an Unusual Mortality Event. This includes 14 live free-swimming non-stranded whales that have been documented with serious injuries from entanglements or vessel strikes, including “Cottontail” and the calf of “Infinity” who was found dead February 13, 2021 consistent with a vessel strike.
For many years, Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute scientists and biologists have been working with NOAA and other partners to track, monitor, and protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. This Spring, CMA unveils Whales: Living With Giants, an immersive exhibit featuring whales of all species which will run through August 31.
“This exhibit is especially timely with the regrettable deaths of this right whale calving season and the discovery of the Rice’s whale, previously thought to be a type of Brydes whale,” said Dr. James “Buddy” Powell, Executive Director of CMA’s Research Institute.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is also partnering with virtual reality entertainment group Immotion to bring a fully-immersive VR theatre complete with motion-platform seating to CMA during the exhibit. Guests will take on the role of marine biologists to observe and be immersed among wild, giant Humpback whales by way of virtual reality.
- About Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working marine rescue center dedicated to preserving our marine life and environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in education, research, rescue, rehabilitation and release. CMA is home to rescue dolphins, sea turtles, river otters, stingrays, nurse sharks and more. Winter, the dolphin’s story of survival after injury that caused her to lose her tail, has impacted millions of people around the world. A major motion picture, Dolphin Tale, highlighted her life story in 2011. The sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, was released in September 2014 and features the incredible story of Hope, a young resident dolphin of CMA. The mission and potential to change people’s lives differentiates Clearwater Marine Aquarium from any other aquarium in the world
We believe in preserving our environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine life; environmental education; research; and conservation.
A Florida non-profit 501(c)(3) organization