Another right whale has been found dead in Canadian waters, says DFO

Katie Ramirez
June 30, 2019

Olivia Pisano, a PhD student in the Department of Biology, is trying to develop technology to identify the locations of North Atlantic right whales using commercial satellite imagery. Four of those whales showed up dead this week, bringing the total number this month to six.

She said the first whale was a nine-year-old male named Wolverine and necropsy results were inconclusive.

However, there were no known right whale births a year ago.

"We have a lot of skinny whales", said Tony Lacasse, spokesperson for the New England Aquarium, which tracks the species.

No whale deaths were reported past year in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but 12 deaths were reported there the previous summer.

Only a few days prior, on June 25, another two right whales were found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawerence, meaning that three right whales have been found dead in Canadian waters this week alone. He is believed to have been involved in at least three minor entanglements.

The whales were found near the Acadian Peninsula, New Brunswick and west of the Magdalen Islands, Quebec, officials said.

This includes ongoing fishery closures in Atlantic Canada and Quebec for snow crab and lobster fisheries and all other non-tended fixed gear fisheries based on confirmed right whale sightings since April 28, 2019, officials said.

The Canadian government has previously placed speed limits on shipping traffic in the area in order to protect whales. Officials are now assessing recovery and necropsy options.

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In 2017, 12 North American right whales were found dead in Canadian waters and five in US waters. The deep waters in the Gulf of ME are warming faster than any other part of the ocean affecting the copepods the whales love to eat.

The U.S. and Canadian governments have worked on a number of measures to try to address ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements.

No right whales were recorded dying in Canadian waters a year ago, but 12 were found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2017. One was a 33-year-old male whale named Comet, who was first spotted in 1985 in Cape Cod Bay; the other was an unnamed female 11-year-old female whale.

A second necropsy is now being conducted by the veterinarian team from the University of Prince Edward Island in Petit Étang, NS, of the dead whale reported on June 20.

"It absolutely is the first priority for everybody including the government, which is a big change from how 2017 started", she said. "Some fishermen have had issues getting their quotas but at the end of the day we think that the measures have enabled us to get out of the way of the whales".

Punctuation is seen with her calf swimming off the coast of Georgia in 2006.

Tonya Wimmer, executive director of the Marine Animal Response Society, spoke with Information Morning Thursday before the sixth whale had been found.

It's important to perform necropsies to understand what is killing so many right whales prematurely, so that conservationists can find ways to prevent future deaths and preserve the population.

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