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Researchers return after studying feeding patterns, relocation of North Atlantic right whales

Click to play video: 'Scientists return from studying North Atlantic right whales'
Scientists return from studying North Atlantic right whales
WATCH: A team of researchers returned from a 15-day mission to learn the feeding patterns and the relocation of the endangered right whales to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Callum Smith has more – Jul 24, 2019

A research team from Canada and the U.S. has returned from a 15-day monitoring mission of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

During a press conference in Shippagan, N.B. on Wednesday, UNB Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Dr. Kimberley Davies says the team was interested in learning the many issues that impact the mammal.  

“We were addressing a number of different ecological problems, scientific problems related to right whales,” says Dr. Davies. “Right now, [the Gulf of St. Lawrence] seems to be the only viable foraging habitat for these animals in Canadian waters.”
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Listed as an endangered mammal by the International Union for Conservation, the right whales have seen eight deaths off Canada’s Atlantic coast in recent months.

Amy Knowlton, a senior scientist at the U.S. based-Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life,  says the team is also looking for the impact of human activity through photographically identifying them.

“We’ll look for evidence of human-related scarring in these photograph sightings from entanglements in fishing gear, or vessel strikes,” says Knowlton.

“We’ll also do a visual health assessment.”

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According to the researchers, 400 right whales are alive with only 100 of them being female.

The researcher team says that seven known calves were born this year, with four being spotted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Part of the trip was to determine what was forcing high numbers of right whales to the Gulf, and if their food consumption is sustainable.

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Despite the emotional impact of seeing the deaths of the whales whilst studying them, Knowlton says they don’t believe the declining right whale population is past the point of no return.       

“It’s discouraging, disheartening [and] frustrating,” says Knowlton. “[But] I would say no, we’re not past that point.”

Another team is expected to return in August for a 15-day trip.

— With files from Callum Smith

WATCH: Federal fisheries minister discusses rescue efforts for North Atlantic right whales

Click to play video: 'Federal fisheries minister discusses rescue efforts for North Atlantic Right Whales'
Federal fisheries minister discusses rescue efforts for North Atlantic Right Whales

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