DFO concerned by deaths of endangered North Atlantic Right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

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MONCTON, NB – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is working with marine mammal experts, scientists, and fishery officers from across Atlantic Canada to determine what has caused the recent deaths of several rare North Atlantic Right whales in eastern Canada.

At least five dead Right whales have been seen recently in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This situation is very concerning. The cause of death is unknown at this time and DFO is committed to finding out what happened to these animals and to protecting this species.

The North Atlantic Right whale is an endangered species in Canada. It is protected under the Canadian Species at Risk Act and the US Marine Mammal Protection Act. The global population is estimated at approximately 500.

On Saturday, DFO dispatched aerial surveillance planes and Canadian Coast Guard vessels in order to locate, tag and take samples from the whales. To date, satellite tags have been placed on two of the dead whales to track their movement in the water. Extensive samples have been taken from one dead whale including skin, blubber, fecal matter and muscle tissue.

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DFO is also looking at the possibility of towing at least one of the carcasses to a location where a necropsy would be conducted.

The priority is to determine why these rare, majestic animals have died. Considering their small population, DFO is committed to doing everything possible to understand what happened to these whales so that preventable whale deaths can be avoided in the future.

DFO has reached out for assistance from a broad range of expertise from the Marine Animal Response Society, the Canadian Whale Institute and wildlife pathology veterinarians from the Atlantic Veterinary College and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to find answers. DFO is also working with partners including Transport Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the USA’s National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (as this is a cross border issue) and commercial area fishermen.

To report dead, injured or entangled marine mammals call the Marine Animal Response Society at 1-866-567-6277 as soon as possible.‎