A 12th North Atlantic right whale has been found dead, this time in Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.
In an interview with Global News, NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region spokesperson Jennifer Goebel said the whale was found Tuesday floating off of Edgartown. She said the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission sent photos to NOAA Fisheries which confirmed it was a North Atlantic right whale.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, located on Cape Cod, Mass., is performing a necropsy Wednesday to determine what caused the death of another endangered right whale. Goebel added that it would not take place on a public beach in the area, but would not say where due to privacy reasons.
“We’ll continue to do necropsies to find out as much as we can about any whales that died because any bit of information is helpful, if there’s something else going on that we’re not aware of,” Goebel said.
Through the photos provided by the commission, Goebel said they were able to confirm it was a right whale.
As of last Thursday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it would bring all resources necessary to protect the right whales after 10 had died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Earlier this spring, Goebel said there was also a right whale that died after being stranded in Cape Cod. In an email, she said final results of the necropsy report have not been received but the initial analysis was the death was due to the whale being struck by a vessel.
DFO Minister Dominic LeBlanc said last week it’s believed 80 to 100 right whales are currently in the gulf and the DFO says in total, there are approximately only 525 right whales in the world.
Various precautions have also been taken as a result of the deaths, including asking mariners to slow their ships to 10 knots when passing through the areas and limiting the amount of rope they have on the water. LeBlanc said collisions with ships and fishing gear entanglements are major threats to the whales.
During one entanglement last month, however, a veteran fisherman from Campobello, N.B. was killed while freeing a whale.
This incident prompted Canada and the United States to temporarily suspend efforts to rescue entangled whales.
WATCH: The International Fund for Animal Welfare explains how the Campobello Whale Rescue Team untangled a right whale in the Bay of Fundy.
As of Tuesday, Canadian efforts to disentangle right whales remain unauthorized but Goebel said Wednesday that disentanglements of other whales have been authorized once again in the U.S. The rescue for right whales can take place as well, but NOAA asks rescuers to check with them first and each will be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
“Right whales are extremely powerful and therefore somewhat dangerous when you’re doing disentanglement,” Goebel said.
Authorization of disentanglements came after U.S. officials conducted an investigation of what happened to fisherman Joe Howlett took place, and following a review of safety protocols, it was determined safe for responders to respond to other whales.
She said Canada and the U.S. are staying in constant communication about the issue.
The right whale that was found in Martha’s Vineyard is “very decomposed”, but there is no indication yet on how the whale died.
Goebel added the NOAA Fisheries ask people out on the water in an area right whales have been seen to go slow.
In an emailed statement, a DFO spokesperson reiterated last week’s confirmation of at least 10 right whale deaths confirmed in Atlantic Canada, calling it an “unprecedented number” of deaths.
The DFO said it would also continue bringing in measures to protect whale deaths and said efforts are already underway which includes closing snow crab fishing area 12, asking fishermen to watch for whales, as well as providing $56,000 towards Whales Habitat and Listening Equipment. This money would support the development of a real-time alert system for mariners.
The department added it would continue to work with partners to conduct necropsies on the whales in an effort to discover what caused their deaths.
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