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Severely entangled right whale Snow Cone spotted off Nantucket on Wednesday

The North Atlantic right whale Snow Cone and a calf sighted off Fernandina Beach, Florida on Jan. 6, 2022.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
via NOAA
The North Atlantic right whale Snow Cone and a calf sighted off Fernandina Beach, Florida on Jan. 6, 2022.

A severely entangled right whale was spotted 15 miles south of Nantucket on Wednesday by researchers from the New England Aquarium. The 17-year-old whale known as Snow Cone was carrying fishing gear from a new entanglement, along with gear from an earlier incident.

Researchers say she has been entangled continuously since March of last year. Heather Pettis of the New England Aquarium says the whale's condition has deteriorated rapidly since she was last seen in July, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the prognosis is poor.

"The first entanglement was debilitating," says Pettis. "The addition of this second entanglement has clearly worsened her condition and really reduced much hope, if any, of her surviving."

Of perhaps 350 remaining North Atlantic right whales, Snow Cone is one of fewer than 100 breeding females. Her first calf was killed by a boat. Her second, born in December while she was severely entangled, hasn't been seen since April.

Pettis says most North Atlantic right whales are entangled more than once in their lifetimes. A disentanglement effort is on hold until the weather improves.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.

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