No Cause Found for Whale Calf's Death; Amelia Island: Mother Not Found in Area

Article excerpt

Byline: Derek L. Kinner, Nassau Neighbors editor

A necropsy on a newborn right whale calf that washed onto Amelia Island earlier this week failed to show why the baby died, officials said.

The whale, which was about 1 1/2 days old, was found about 7 a.m. Tuesday by a man walking on the beach between Scott's Road and American Beach.

Chris Slay, a biologist under contract to the New England Aquarium to do right whale research, said that despite efforts by biologists, veterinarians and resident volunteers, the calf probably had little chance to survive after it was found.

The man reported the beached whale to authorities, and Slay and others responded. Monica Zani, who coordinates flights over the Atlantic Ocean for the aquarium to spot right whales this time of year, the calving season, immediately coordinated an aerial survey to try to find the calf's mother, Slay said.

"It was a very strong aerial survey effort," he said.

But despite good conditions for searching, crews couldn't find a whale nearby, though they did spot one off Cumberland Island, about 10 miles out to sea, and another near St. Augustine. That probably meant the mother had left the area, Slay said.

Slay said one plan called for the Coast Guard to airlift the calf to the area where the mother was, if they could have found her. But that was a tentative plan and the more he learned about the calf's condition, the less he thought it would have survived. …