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At least nine right whales have been found dead in the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence since June 6, raising alarm among conservationists.

Right whale deaths in Canada raise total to at least 10

Digital writers

Friday, August 4, 2017, 1:28 PM - An animal conservation organization heavily involved in the recovery of Atlantic Canada's dead right whales says at least 10 of the animals have been found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence since June.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Nova Scotia's Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) said that a total of four whales had washed ashore in Newfoundland, which could raise the number as high as 12.

The results of necropsies on the carcasses are yet to be revealed, but the endangered species is most at threat from collisions with fishing boats and entanglement in fishing lines. Right whales are an endangered species, with an estimated 525 individuals remaining in the wild as of 2016, according to DFO. In rough terms, the loss of these individuals in such short order represents around two per cent of the species.

Some of the carcasses have been visited by DFO vessels and examined by members of (MARS), a charitable conservation group, which posted images of the carcasses on its Facebook group. 

"The loss of even one animal is huge with animals with a population this small. Basically, every animal counts," Tonya Wimmer, the society's director, told CBC.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature says the species has been in decline for generations, at one point with only 70 reproducing animals in 1998. Some sub-populations have fallen to such a low level that they are likely to be critically endangered, if not extinct, locally.

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Right whales migrate to feeding grounds in Atlantic Canada in the summer and fall from more southern U.S. waters. They can be found in the Bay of Fundy, Scotian Shelf and Gulf of St. Lawrence, according to DFO.

DFO says the threats against right whales include ship collisions, fishing gear entanglement and underwater noise.

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SOURCES: Whales Online | CBC News | IUCN | DFO

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