July 8, 2017 11:21 am

Decomposed remains of whale found in Gulf of St. Lawrence, 7th in a month

What's killing whales in Gulf of St. Lawrence?

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Wildlife experts are searching for answers after finding the decomposed remains of another North Atlantic right whale floating around the Gulf of St. Lawrence — the seventh in a month.

This animal is one of the most endangered of all the larger whales, with a long history of human exploitation, according to the WWF.

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The overturned whale was seen bobbing on the surface of the water Magdalen Islands late Wednesday, but it was not yet clear what may have caused this latest death.

Last month, six of the massive animals — two females and four males — were found dead in the same area.

READ MORE: Six right whales dead in Gulf of St. Lawrence

Necropsies on three of whales suggest two may have been killed by ship strikes, while a third died after becoming entangled in fishing gear. Scientists say blunt trauma injuries from ship strikes are one of the deadliest threats to the animals.

Tonya Wimmer of the Marine Animal Response Society said these deaths are “unprecedented,” and it’s a loss that amounts to more than one per cent of the population of the endangered species.

There are around 300- 500 right whales believed to be roaming the seas.

Raw: Rare North Pacific Right Whale

Wimmer said scientists need to intensify efforts to find out if the whales are making the Gulf one of their primary feeding grounds. Their traditional habitats are usually in the Bay of Fundy and Roseway Basin, she said.

“All of that together is saying there needs to be a very strong focus on the Gulf to really look at what’s going on and potentially try to figure out where they are and then what can be done to protect them,” she said.

“It’s a really important animal to look at in the realm of this larger picture of incidents that have been happening in that southern Gulf of St. Lawrence area.”

The right whales are on the brink of extinction, and the seven deaths are a blow to the already fragile population, according to WWF.

READ MORE: Endangered North Atlantic right whale freed from fishing line

They were hunted to near extinction in the late 18th century and has struggled ever since. They are particularly vulnerable to ship strikes because they are oblivious to their surroundings while eating.

With files from the Canadian Press

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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