January 25, 2018 1:31 pm
Updated: February 3, 2018 8:45 pm

North Atlantic right whale found dead off Virginia coast, 1st in 2018

In the desperate search for solutions to the sudden cluster of North Atlantic right whale deaths, a similar tragedy has gone virtually unnoticed. As Ross Lord explains, the situation affects at least two other species of Atlantic whales.


Another North Atlantic right whale has been found dead, the first to be recorded in 2018 and the 18th  since last year.

The whale was reportedly found off the coast of Virginia on Jan. 22.

Jennifer Goebel, a spokesperson for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), confirmed the information to Global News on Thursday.

“I can confirm we received a report of a dead (North Atlantic right whale) and are investigating,” said Goebel in an email.

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READ MORE: Ottawa announces four new measures with the goal of protecting right whales

According to NOAA,  the remains of the whale appeared to be wrapped in a fishing line.

Based on past experience with entangled whales the NOAA believe the whale was alive and swimming when it encountered the line.

Canada implements new restrictions

The discovery of the whale comes only two days after the federal fisheries minister announced four measures aimed at protecting right whales from entanglement in fishing gear.

“Protecting Canada’s endangered whales from further harm is a responsibility that weighs heavily on all of us,” Dominic LeBlanc said Tuesday in Moncton.

LeBlanc said four new rules for the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence snow crab fishery will greatly reduce the amount of rope that can be left floating on the surface when crab pots are set – to no more than 3.7 metres.

“In addition, no rope attaching a crab trap to a primary buoy can remain floating on the surface of the water after the crab trap has been set,” he said.

“We will be requiring them to add metal weights to portions of the rope to ensure that the rope is, in fact, vertical in the water and doesn’t float on the surface. In the past, metres and metres of rope had been allowed to float on the surface,” he said.

Other new rules will require rope and gear to be colour-coded, based on the area where they are used, and each piece of equipment must have serial numbers to identify the owner. Any lost gear must be reported, along with its last GPS location.

WATCH: Global News coverage of North Atlantic right whale deaths

Cause of death

At least some of the 17 confirmed right whale deaths in Canada and the United States last year were the result of fishing gear entanglements.

Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans have completed necropsies on seven of the 12 whales that died in Canadian waters in 2017. According to NOAA, five of the whales died due to blunt force trauma — associated with vessel strikes — and two died due to entanglements.

Of the five whales found dead in U.S. waters one was confirmed to have died of blunt force trauma while the other four were too decomposed to determine a cause of death.

Scientists have estimated there are roughly 450 right whales left in the world, and that number is declining.

With this Right Whale death it’s now estimated by NOAA that four per cent of the population has been killed.

— With files from the Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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