Bad weather Friday continued to frustrate efforts by NOAA officials to launch a new search flight and develop rescue plans for an entangled northern right whale sighted Oct. 11 near the approaches to New York Harbor.

Sighted by naturalists with the Gotham Whale group on board the American Princess, a New York-based whale watch vessel, the whale was first seen 2.7 miles east of Sea Bright, N.J. Photographs taken by the whale watchers allowed experts at the New England Aquarium, who keep track of the highly endangered right whale population, to identify the whale as #4680, a 4-year-old juvenile male.

The animal had last been reported July 7 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and at that time was not entangled in fishing gear, according to NOAA officials.

“We are still looking for a good weather window in the next few days to get a team in the air,” they wrote in an online update posted Oct. 16. “The team will try and locate the whale and further document its entanglement and injuries.”

In the meantime, the agency asked that all mariners in the New Jersey and New York area keep an eye out for the whale. Sightings should be reported immediate and report any sightings immediately to NOAA at (866) 755-6622 or to the Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16.

“From the photos, biologists believe that the whale is in extremely poor condition, with large lesions on its body,” according to NOAA officials. “The whale has two visible lines partially embedded around its head and likely has a more complex entanglement that needs additional documentation.”

The initial sighting by Gotham Whale was close to the same area where a very young male right whale calf was found dead June 27, the apparent victim of two vessel strikes weeks apart. That calf was one of 10 young born during the winter 2019-2020 season – which was greeted as good news for a population now estimated to number only about 400 whales in all.

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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