DFO officials work to identify dead whale, as experts warn of more fatalities
Federal officials are working to confirm whether a dead North Atlantic right whale that was seen on Sunday is a new mortality or the same animal that was sighted last month.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada says in a statement that the marine mammal was first sighted off eastern Cape Breton on July 21 in an "advanced state of decomposition."
The department said Tuesday it is working to confirm whether this is yet another whale that died, or the same dead animal that was originally seen on June 24 in the same area.
The whale seen last month has not been relocated and experts have been unable to confirm its identity from photos, the statement said.
However they have taken samples from the recently discovered whale, which may help identify the animal and determine its cause of death.
Joe Gaydos with the SeaDoc Society out of the University of California, Davis, said he hoped it was the same whale.
"Already too many have died this year -- more than have been born, and that's not how you grow an endangered population of whales," he said.
"One more dead whale would not be good news for this population."
This year, eight right whales have been found dead in Canadian waters, out of an estimated population of roughly 400.
Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, said there could "certainly be more" dead whales out there.
"The sea is a big place and it's not like we can find them all the time," he said.
"If one does die we often don't find it or, if we do, it is often well after death, when decomposition hinders all sorts of investigation -- including even identifying individuals."
Gretchen Fitzgerald, national programs director for the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, has said that seven babies were born this winter in the southern area of the whales' habitat.