Searchers locate right whale whose calf was killed in boat strike

One plane was off coast of St. Johns County and other was off coast of Southeast Georgia

Two spotter planes on Tuesday searched for a right whale whose calf was killed in a boat strike last week.

One of the planes was off the coast of St. Johns County, while the other was off the coast of Southeast Georgia. The whale -- named Infinity -- was located in Georgia with the same injuries as the calf.

The right whale calf, possibly 2 months old, washed up Saturday on the shore of Anatasia State Park beach. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the necropsy, or animal autopsy, showed wounds consistent with having been hit by a boat propeller. According to FWC, the wounds were so deep that the 22-foot calf’s skull and rib bones were fractured.

Tom Pitchford, a wildlife biologist with the FWC, said a NOAA aircraft with observers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium spotted Infinity about 25 miles off of Cumberland Island.

The boat that struck the right whale is now at the St. Augustine Marine Center. Pitchford said that boat would’ve sunk if the captain didn’t ground it on a sandbar. A boater told News4Jax the sandbar was near The Conch House Restaurant.

Michael Schuster said he was at the Conch House when rescue crews were sent out to help the boaters on Friday night.

“We saw all the police boats there, and we could see the fishing boat,” Schuster recalled.

Pitchford says people need to remain aware of their surroundings when they’re in a boat, especially during right whale calving season.

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