The dead whale will be brought ashore for NOAA scientists to conduct a necropsy to take biological samples and to determine the cause of death.
The whale carcass was initially reported 46 miles off Cape May Tuesday by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Legare, which was returning to Portsmouth, Va., following a 33-day deployment in the Mid-Atlantic. A NOAA aircraft provided an updated position of the whale on Wednesday when the carcass was observed 69 miles off Cape May.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Finback, an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Cape May, is towing the whale near Cape Henlopen, Del., where the tow will be passed off to a commercial towing company. The commercial towing company will transport the whale carcass to the necropsy site, which will likely be in the vicinity of Delaware Bay, but has not yet been selected.
The North Atlantic right whales are listed as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act.