Deceased female North Atlantic right whale.
© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute/Michael Moore.Deceased female North Atlantic right whale.
A young North Atlantic right whale was found dead off a Martha's Vineyard beach in Massachusetts over the weekend as the number of the endangered species continues to decline and is "approaching extinction."

NOAA said its fisheries division was notified Sunday that a dead female right whale was located near Joseph Sylvia State Beach in Edgartown.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, an organization that responds to stranded marine mammals on Cape Cod and the south coast of Massachusetts, as well as the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) were able to secure the whale, NOAA Fisheries said. And preliminary observations showed the presence of rope around and embedded in the whale's tail.

NOAA said the whale was female, but because of the animal's position, it couldn't be identified. However, it was estimated that the dead right whale was a juvenile due to its size.

Some of the rope was collected by state law enforcement, and it was then turned over to NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement, where it will be examined by gear experts.

In addition, NOAA said authorized members of the National Marine Mammal Stranding Response Network will perform a necropsy (an animal autopsy) to investigate the whale's cause of death.

North Atlantic right whales approaching extinction

The North Atlantic right whale species is "approaching extinction," NOAA says, with around 360 remaining, including less than 70 reproductively active females.

An Unusual Mortality Event for the North Atlantic right whale has been ongoing since 2017, and this whale is the 37th documented death. But research shows that only about one-third of right whale deaths are documented.

The main threats to the North Atlantic right whale are entanglements in fishing gear and vessel strikes.