Marine animal group trying to find out what killed humpback whale found in Halifax Harbour

Click to play video: 'Humpback whales breaching the water surprise family off Newfoundland coast'
Humpback whales breaching the water surprise family off Newfoundland coast
Two humpback whales surprised a family that were on a boat off the coast of Newfoundland in Conception Bay on Sunday when the whales breached the water multiple times, with Sean Russell capturing the moments on video – Aug 24, 2020

Members of a marine animal group are attempting to get closer to the carcass of a humpback whale in Halifax Harbour in order to find out why the animal died.

The Marine Animal Response Society (MARS), a group that responds to incidents of dead and distressed marine animals in the Maritime provinces, said they were contacted Thursday evening about the floating whale.

A mariner had spotted the carcass — a small, male humpback — in the outer approaches of Halifax Harbour. It’s estimated the animal is about 10 m in length.

“With these animals, we really need to understand what happened to them,” Tonya Wimmer, the executive director of MARS, told Global News on Sunday.

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“There’s a huge concern that human activity played a role in the deaths of these animals.”

Wimmer said at this point, however, there is no indication what killed this particular whale and that’s why a performing a necropsy is so vital.

The carcass is that of a small, male humpback whale. Marine Animal Response Society/Facebook

Getting close to the body hasn’t been easy.

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“We were very fortunate to get on the water Friday morning with the help of the mariner who first reported it to get an initial look at the animal and collect some samples,” MARS said in a social media post.

“Throughout the day, we worked closely with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and other partners to try to secure a location to bring the animal ashore for a necropsy. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be arranged before the tide dropped and the animal had drifted off.”

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MARS said the animal was last spotted near Lawlor Island in Eastern Passage, and asked the public to call in with any sightings.

Members of the Marine Animal Response Society are trying to retrieve a humpback whale carcass floating off Halifax to perform a necropsy. Marine Animal Response Society/Facebook

On Monday, a report led MARS to find the animal on the southern side of the island. Unfortunately, the spot was not safe enough for team members to reach the animal for a full necropsy.

While there was nothing in the external examination that pinpointed a cause of death, Wimmer said “you really do need to open the animal up to get the full picture.”

There’s a time constraint as well, as the carcass continues to break down.

“We want do it as fresh as possible,” she said.

“In the summertime, time really isn’t on our side in terms of warm weather.”

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Wimmer said they will continue to liaise with DFO and partners to see what can be done to examine the whale, while keeping safety and logistics in mind.

Click to play video: 'Video shows humpback whale tail making contact with tour boat off N.S. coast'
Video shows humpback whale tail making contact with tour boat off N.S. coast

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