KEY POINTS

  • The whale calf was 22 feet and four inches long
  • It was buried Sunday after necropsy
  • It had broken ribs, broken skull and cuts on the body consistent with a boat strike

A right whale calf was killed Friday night after colliding with a boat off the Florida coast, authorities said.

The calf washed up Saturday on the northern part of Anastasia State Park with “severe injuries” from the propeller, Jim Hain, the director of the Marineland Right Whale Project, said, local news outlet First Coast news reported.

Saint Augustine fire rescuers responded to an emergency call regarding a boat taking on water at around 6:48 p.m. ET Friday in Salt Run near St. Augustine inlet. Five people were rescued from the sport fisherman boat along with their equipment.

The people on the boat said “they hit a whale and began taking on water quickly,” Chris Pacetti, a rescuer told the news outlet.

Blaire Mase with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the boat that collided with the calf was a sport fisherman boat coming in for the day. Mase also said the critically endangered species of right whales are extremely vulnerable to vessel strikes and entanglement injuries.

“Oftentimes, most of their [whales'] bodies are underwater, and then they come up to breathe. So, they are super susceptible because of that, and also because they travel and migrate and spend time this time of year so close to shore,” Mase said, First Coast News reported.

The whale calf that was killed was 22 feet and four inches long, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. It was buried Sunday after the necropsy, which revealed the whale calf had broken ribs, broken skull and cuts on the body consistent with a boat strike.

“Any loss of a whale has a devastating impact on the species as a whole. I mean, we have less than 400 left,” Mase said. “This is our second calf that has died this year, so it does have a devastating impact on the species,” Mase added.

ocean-631603_640 The necropsy revealed that the whale had broken ribs, skull and cuts on the body consistent with a boat strike. Photo: pixabay

The North Atlantic right whales were listed as endangered in the year 1970. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there are about 400 North Atlantic right whales in existence now. 

The whales typically come down to the Northeast Florida coast line for calving season from November to March. At least 14 calves have been spotted during this season, reported local news outlet News4Jax.   The season also happens to be a time when they get accidentally struck by vessels.

“We’re hoping for good calf production and a low mortality rate,” Hain said. “When something like this happens, it’s like a gut punch,” he added, the news outlet reported.