July 9, 2018 10:53 am
Updated: July 9, 2018 11:00 am

Minke whale death toll rising off East Coast

FILE - Elmer Cann stands next to a deceased minke whale in this handout image.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours-Amy Tudor
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An animal protection group says the death toll appears to be rising for a small whale species off the East Coast, raising concerns that the animals are falling victim to the same threats facing endangered North Atlantic right whales.

Tonya Wimmer of the Marine Animal Response Society says that since early February, about 14 minke whales have been found dead at sea or on beaches in the Maritimes, largely around northern New Brunswick.

READ: Minke whale washes ashore in Nova Scotia, cause of death not known

That’s up from the average rate of about 10 deaths a year for minkes, which are not considered at risk or threatened.

She says several minkes appear to have been killed by ship strikes or entanglements in fishing gear – the main causes of death for the right whales.

WATCH: Incredible video of the rescue of a newborn minke whale beached in Haida Gwaii

Wimmer says little is known about the common minkes – the smallest of the baleen whales – but that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration in the States has reported an unusual mortality event with about 33 minke deaths since 2017.

Last week, a dead minke washed up on Inkerman Beach in northern New Brunswick but Wimmer says it was badly decomposed and in such an inaccessible spot that they may not be able to get a sample to help determine the cause of death.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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