During an aerial surveillance flight, Fisheries and Oceans Canada received a report of a dead Atlantic right whale drifting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Tuesday.
The federal department worked with the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS), the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to find the whale, which was recovered on Wednesday.
Researchers at the New England Aquarium have identified the dead right whale as a nine year old male named Wolverine.
“He was seen many times in all the main habitats from Florida to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and had endured both a vessel strike and three entanglements,” said Amy Knowlton, a senior right whale scientist with the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life.
“The right whale community is saddened by the loss of Wolverine, especially at such a young age,” she added.
According to a press release sent by the New England Aquarium, at nine years old, Wolverine was considered a young adult in the small North Atlantic right whale world of slightly more than 400 such animals on the planet.
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For decades, the Bay of Fundy to the south of the Maritime provinces had been the primary mid to late summer feeding destination for a large part of the right whale population.
After Wolverine’s birth in 2010, Fundy waters were largely bereft of copepods, the fatty, rice-sized zooplankton that is the foundation of the right whale diet as both surface and deep water temperatures have been rising by alarming rates.
The press release stated that right whales would still show up, but left quickly in search of other feeding locations.
Wolverine and hundreds of other right whales eventually found copepod aggregations hundreds of miles to the north in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
However, regulations concerning ship traffic and fishing effort, which were in place for the waters south of the Canada’s Maritime Provinces and in New England, were not in place in this emerging habitat.
The lack of regulations caused “a right whale calamity,” resulting in the death of a dozen right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the summer of 2017, and five more died in U.S. waters. Nearly four per cent of the right whale population died in the matter of a few months.
The population of right whales are estimated to be 411.
Canadian officials are working on plans to possibly tow and necropsy his carcass to possibly determine the cause of death.