North Atlantic right whale carcass attracts several large sharks

A North Atlantic right whale that was found dead Friday off South Carolina appears to have become a feast for great white sharks.a turtle swimming under water

The 12-year-old male right whale, nicknamed Cottontail, had previously been seen badly entangled and in poor health.

On February 18, a disentanglement team attached a telemetry buoy to Cottontail off Florida’s Treasure Coast in the hope of later attempting the difficult task of relocating the whale and removing the fishing gear.animal on the water

Cottontail, who was spotted entangled as early as last October, was found dead 15 miles off Myrtle Beach. Biologists were able to collect samples and place a tag on the carcass to track its location.

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered and Cottontail’s death changes NOAA Fisheries’ Unusual Mortality Event count to 34 dead and 14 seriously injured.

The UME off the U.S. and Canada began in 2017, when 17 stranded right whales were counted. The leading cause of death is “human interaction,” notably fishing gear entanglement and vessel strikes.

a turtle swimming under water

Aerial images captured Saturday by a Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute crew show great white sharks swimming around Cottontail’s carcass. At one point an air crew counted nine sharks near the mammal. Since Saturday, poor weather has hampered efforts to reach the whale for further biological study.

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