Endangered right whale carcass to be examined in N.B. for cause of death
A live picture from 2011 of Wolverine, an endangered right whale that was found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on June 4. Wolverine was so named for a series of three propeller cuts on his tail stock that reminded researchers of the three blades on the hand of the Marvel comic book character of the same name. (Sheila McKenney/Associated Scientists of Woods Hole/Marineland Right Whale Project)
MISCOU ISLAND, N.B. -- An examination of the carcass of a North Atlantic right whale will soon be carried out on the shores of Miscou Island in New Brunswick as experts try to learn what caused the endangered animal's death.
The federal Fisheries Department says in a news release that it will be examining the whale identified as the nine-year-old male "Wolverine" in a necropsy that may begin as early as Friday.
The whale was reported dead earlier this week after it was spotted by a Fisheries and Oceans Canada surveillance flight.
Its body was towed to New Brunswick by a Canadian Coast Guard vessel on Wednesday.
The department says it's working with marine mammal experts to organize and conduct a necropsy, but it may take months to come to a finding on the cause of death.
The release says the whale was observed in a part of the ocean closed to non-tended fixed gear fishing since May 17, but the exact date, location and cause of the whale's death are not known.
The Marine Animal Response Society from Nova Scotia will plan and conduct the necropsy, with veterinary pathologists from the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island and the University of Montreal participating.
In recent years most right whale deaths have been attributed to being struck by ships or becoming entangled in fishing gear.
Major efforts have been made to limit fishing gear when the whales are present, and there are now mandatory speed restrictions for vessels 20 metres or longer when travelling in the western Gulf.
No right whales died in Canadian waters last year, but 12 were found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2017.
Necropsies on seven of those whales found four died from trauma consistent with vessel collisions, while two deaths were the result of entanglement in fishing gear.
There are estimated to be fewer than 420 of the North Atlantic right whales left, with deaths outpacing live births.
The right whale is one of the largest mammals in the sea.