The carcass of an endangered North Atlantic right whale was found on Monday off Massachusetts.
© NOAA Fisheries
The carcass of an endangered North Atlantic right whale was found on Monday off Massachusetts.
A North Atlantic right whale has been found dead off the U.S. coast, the first right whale carcass to be reported this summer and the second this year.

The whale was spotted off Martha's Vineyard, a Massachusetts Island south of Cape Cod, on Monday, according to Jennie Lyons, spokesperson for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Boaters spotted the whale again on Tuesday and the U.S. Coast Guard provided a vessel to bring a small team of NOAA scientists to the carcass.

"They applied a solar-powered satellite tag to monitor the location of the animal," she said. "They also took a tissue sample, which may help us learn more about this whale."

The cause of death isn't known. Because of the degree of decomposition, a necropsy will not be performed, and the whale will not be towed to land.

"We will continue to monitor its location with the tag and perform additional sampling if the animal lands on a beach this week," Lyons said.

1st whale found in January

Fisheries officials in the U.S. located the carcass of a North Atlantic right whale off the coast of Virginia in January, making it the first confirmed death of a North Atlantic right whale this year.

No deaths of the endangered whales have been recorded in Canadian waters this year, a striking difference from last year, when 12 carcasses were found. Another five right whales were found dead off the U.S. coast.

Last month, a 10-year-old right whale was found entangled in fishing gear east of Grand Manan in the Bay of Fundy but was freed in early August.

Scientists believe human activity — fishing and shipping — was responsible for the high number of right whale deaths last year.

After the deaths last year, the federal government took steps to reduce the risk of ship strikes and entanglements in fishing gear in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, including speed restrictions for ships and a system of static and temporary fishing closures.

Fishery closures also occurred this year in the Bay of Fundy when whales were present.

Estimates of the remaining number of North Atlantic right whales range from 400 to 450.