Another endangered North Atlantic right whale has been found floating lifeless in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, an animal rescue group said Thursday as plans were being made to tow the animal ashore.
The Marine Animal Response Society said an aerial survey conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. spotted the whale carcass late Wednesday afternoon east of Shippagan, N.B. The group said the survey also revealed another entangled right whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The society’s response co-ordinator Andrew Reid said they are working with the federal Fisheries Department and the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative to conduct a necropsy of the whale to determine what killed it.
“We have to find a suitable necropsy location to tow the animal to,” said Reid. “We’re co-ordinating with our colleagues at the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative… to bring the necessary resources on site to do the necropsy.
Reid called the whale deaths “unprecedented.”
“Where we’re dealing with such an endangered species, it’s very concerning. For any species it would be concerning to have this many animals die in such a short period,” he said.
“For a species like the North Atlantic right whale, where there are so few animals left, it’s a heightened concern.”
North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered, with only about 525 estimated alive.
Last week, the wildlife co-operative said a necropsy performed in the Magdalen Islands on one of the eight right whales found floating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence showed it had marks of blunt trauma, suggesting it may have collided with a vessel.
Tests performed earlier on two other North Atlantic right whales in Prince Edward Island also showed signs of blunt trauma. Another died as a result of what the group called a chronic entanglement in fishing line.
Disentanglements of right whales were recently put on hold by Ottawa following the death of a whale rescuer in New Brunswick. Joe Howlett, who was also a lobster fishermen, died after freeing a North Atlantic right whale that had been entangled in fishing gear near Shippagan, N.B.
The United States had implemented similar protocols, but announced earlier this week that it was allowing its whale-disentanglement teams to resume most rescue operations, except for the disentangling of right whales.
The society said the Fisheries Department will monitor the entangled whale and consult with experts on the safest course of action.
Marine scientists have said they need to intensify efforts to find out if the lumbering giants are making the Gulf one of their primary feeding grounds in a shift away from their traditional habitats in the Bay of Fundy and Roseway Basin.