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Scientists still don't know why hundreds of baby southern right whales are turning up dead around Patagonia, a decade after observers first saw signs of the worst die-off on record for the species, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
They say kelp gulls at Peninsula Valdes land on the backs of the cetaceans to eat their skin and blubber
"The attacks are very painful and cause large, deep lesions, particularly on the backs of young 2-6 week-old calves," the researchers said in a statement from WCS. "This harassment can last for hours at a time. As a result, right whale mothers and their calves are expending much precious energy during a time of year when mothers are fasting and at a site where little to no food is available to replenish fat reserves."
The Navy wants to begin installation of the undersea range next year and has agreed to suspend construction during the calving season from November to April. However, the military refused a request to halt training at the site during the same months, saying it would undermine readiness. Wood ruled the Navy considered and "rationally rejected" the precautions requested by conservationists.