Efforts continue to locate three right whales entangled in fishing gear in Gulf of St. Lawrence
The race is on to locate and safely disentangle three endangered North Atlantic right whales in the southern part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Morning rescue efforts were delayed by strong winds, according to a brief email sent by the Campobello Whale Rescue Team [CWRT].
The volunteer-run organization is aiding the government and other response teams in trying to locate the marine mammals.
“I know this is extremely stressful for them [CWRT] because they care so much about these whales, have worked for years to protect them and learning the best techniques to do so, said Gretchen Fitzgerald, the national programs director for the Sierra Club Canada Foundation.
“So [we are] just hoping we can find them and safely, safely disentangle them.”
Six right whales have been found dead in the gulf since early June.
Necropsy results show at least two of those deaths are consistent with blunt trauma caused by vessel strikes.
The recent deaths have led to the federal government adding new and expanded measures to protect the dwindling population of endangered species.
Those measures include expanding the locations of slowdown zones, placing speed restrictions on any vessel that’s over 13 metres long and providing funding for programs aimed at safeguarding the whales.
WATCH: Economic impact of North Atlantic right whale deaths
However, many conservationists feel the measures need to be made permanent — regardless of whether right whales continue to be found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence or not.
“These things are happening while the whales are here, and unfortunately to some degree [are] in response to failure of management,” Fitzgerald said.
“So, I think we need to be looking at the gulf ecosystem as a whole, as a place where the whales are obviously coming and we need to protect it as a whole by ensuring that management measures apply to the entire gulf.”
According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the two key threats related to right whale deaths are vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.
WATCH: (July 6) Three more North Atlantic right whales entangled off Eastern Canada
Right whale populations have migrated from the Bay of Fundy to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in recent years, where Fitzgerald says there is a significantly higher amount of ship traffic.
Scientists have concluded the migration is due to changing food sources.
“They’re in a new environment, a place where we weren’t managing to prevent deaths and entanglements to the degree that we were in the Bay of Fundy. So, unfortunately we’re seeing more deaths.”
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