Another North Atlantic right whale has been confirmed to have died, bringing the total number of deaths of the endangered species to at least 13 over the past few months.
The whale was reported to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) about 160 miles east of Cape Cod by the U.S. Coast Guard on Monday, according NOAA public affairs officer Jennifer Goebel.
It is the third right whale death in U.S. waters and comes about a week after the 12th death was reported in Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Ten to 12 right whale carcasses have also been found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Canadian fisheries officials say only approximately 500 right whales still exist in the world, making the deaths even more significant.
WATCH: Global News coverage of North Atlantic right whale deaths
“That’s like two-and-a-half per cent of the population, roughly,” Goebel said. “Obviously that’s very concerning, we’re very alarmed by all of these deaths. It does not bode well for the species.
“We’ve been seeing lately a trend … calving intervals have been increasing, so they aren’t having calves as frequently. We’ve seen fewer calves in the last couple of years — we only counted five this year. So we’re generally getting the sense that things are not going well for the population.”
Four of the animals recently found showed evidence of being struck by ships, while another appeared to have become entangled in fishing gear and at least one is still pending a necropsy, biologist Regina Asmutis-Silvia of the Plymouth, Massachusetts-based group Whale and Dolphin Conservation told The Associated Press this week.
Goebel said the New England Aquarium identified the whale as #2123, also known as “Couplet,” a reproductive female born in 1991. She has given birth to five calves in the past.
She said officials are still determining a response, whether to tow the carcass into shore or take samples from it out at sea, but due to its distance she said they’re dealing with a “weather window” as a storm approaches.
The deaths of right whales have prompted response from both sides of the border, with Canada’s government ordering large vessels to slow down in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On Friday, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced the temporary measures which would require vessels of 20 metres or more to slow down to 10 knots — or about 19 kilometres per hour — while travelling in the western Gulf.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also using various methods, including surveillance flights along the Gulf of St. Lawrence coastline and closing a snow crab fishing area.
In the U.S., marine regulators have implemented speed restrictions.
No other changes to current guidelines are currently planned, Goebel said, but reminded people who are on the water to slow down if they know right whales are in the area.
As of 6 p.m., Goebel said she expects a decision on how to examine the carcass will be made by tomorrow.
—With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press