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8th North Atlantic right whale found dead in Canadian waters

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Thursday, July 20, 2017, 7:58 PM - The North Atlantic right whale death toll has risen to eight, raising alarm among conservationists.

The marine mammal was found lifeless in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Thursday morning. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says they are working with partners to tow the carcass and begin the necropsy.

According to CBC, the whale will be moved to a beach on Miscou Island, N.B., with the necropsy expected to take place by early Friday.

An additional right whale was also found entangled east of New Brunswick Thursday.

"We have paused Right whale disentanglements for the time being, monitoring closely," the DFO Tweeted Thursday evening.

Disentanglement rescues have been placed on hold following the death of Joe Howlett, a member of a non-governmental organization Campobello Whale Rescue. Howlett lost his life on June 10 while trying to disentangle a right whale off the coast of New Brunswick.

"There are serious risks involved with any disentanglement attempt. Each situation is unique, and entangled whales can be unpredictable," Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in a statement.

RELATED: Ground breaking whale rescue in New Brunswick

Experts are hoping to track the entangled whale by placing a satellite tracking tag on the trailing gear, CBC reports.

Adviser with the Campobello Whale Rescue Team Jerry Conway told the news agency that with the help of the tracking device, a team may be put together to rescue the whale.

"That administration has been very useful in our own attempt at figuring out what the problem is right now this summer in the gulf," Pierre-Yves Daoust, wildlife pathologist at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island told the news agency.

Marine Animal Response Society

47ft. To give you a sense of the size of the animal.

"Considering the warm weather and the fact that... any day that passes can cause a lot of decomposition inside the carcass. That really makes it that much more difficult for us."

The DFO says the threats against right whales include ship collisions, fishing gear entanglement and underwater noise. While past necropsies revealed two of the whales suffered blunt trauma, the exact cause of death for both marine mammals has yet to be determined. 

Right whales are an endangered species, with an estimated 525 individuals remaining in the wild, according to the DFO.

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.

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. 


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