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Marine experts try to save critically endangered whale calf after boat strike

Calf’s prognosis looks poor

North Atlantic right whale and her injured calf off of Fernandina Beach, Florida.
North Atlantic right whale and her injured calf off of Fernandina Beach, Florida. (FWC)

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Marine experts are trying to save the life of a severely injured North Atlantic right whale calf after it was found off the coast of Florida with its mother.

Antibiotics were administered Thursday afternoon to the calf by a team of marine experts, which included SeaWorld’s Dr. Hendrik Nollens as a lead veterinarian, in an effort to prevent any infection from forming, but the prognosis remains poor.

Marine mammal experts said the injury to the calf’s mouth -- which is believed to be caused by a vessel striking it -- is the most concerning because it could affect its ability to nurse and feed.

North Atlantic right whales are a critically endangered species and the population is believed to be less than 430 individuals. The injured calf is one of four calves born this calving season.

Currently, the two biggest threats these whales face are being struck by a marine vessel and getting entangled in fishing gear.

NOAA is asking everyone to be cautious on the water.

“Please give these animals their space. Mom/calf pairs spend the majority of their time at, or a few feet below the water’s surface in the Southeast U.S. This is a critical and vulnerable time for right whale moms to bond with their calves - law requires staying away at least 500 yards by air (including drones) and by sea,” NOAA officials said in a news release.

Other organizations involved in the mission include Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Blue World Research Institute.

Anyone with information regarding the calf’s injuries and additional sightings are asked to call 1-877-942-5343.

For more information and to keep up with the calf’s condition, visit NOAA’s website.