Entangled North Atlantic right whale spotted in Gulf of St. Lawrence


June 30, 2019

An entangled male North Atlantic right whale has been spotted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The news was reported by the Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station in New Brunswick on its Facebook page. The entangled whale was discovered on Saturday.

It is not known how badly the right whale, known by the number 4400, is entangled. 

The post says when the weather improves, it is hoped the whale can be disentangled. Its exact location was not revealed in the post.

The region has seen rain and strong winds over the past few days. There is a strong wind warning in effect for tonight and tomorrow along with a risk of thunderstorms.

"It is quite the trek for the Campobello Whale Rescue Team. They are hoping to set up another disentanglement team to help with these."

That team, based in Campbello, N.B., has reportedly disentangled a humpback whale off Miscou Island, N.B. recently.

Six North Atlantic right whales have died since early June. There are only about 400 of the whales left in the world.

The entangled whale was born in 2014 to a right whale named Naevus. It is the grandson of Wart, one of the adoptive whales of the research station. 

The research station said there is no indication where the gear entangling the whale came from.

In a statement issued Sunday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) said it is aware of the problem and authorities are working with the Campobello Whale Rescue Team to "assess disentanglement options."

"The whale was first observed late yesterday afternoon by a Canadian Coast Guard Vessel north east of Miscou Island in a zone closed to most fisheries since April," DFO said.

"The state of the whale and the length of time it has been entangled is unknown at this time. We take this situation very seriously. As such, we will try to locate and tag the whale as soon as weather permits."

Speed reductions implemented

This week Transport Canada implemented vessel speed restrictions in two shipping lanes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The interim speed restriction of 10 knots affects vessels of 20 metres or more in length travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence, in two designated shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island.

This measure is in addition to the fixed speed restriction introduced in April in a large area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where vessels are restricted to a maximum of 10 knots until Nov. 15.

On Monday, researchers will examine the sixth whale in the Gaspé Peninsula, a female known as Clipper. DFO is reviewing options for the necropsies of the two other whales. 

Veterinary teams from the Université de Montréal and the Atlantic Veterinary College (University of Prince Edward Island), supported by American experts, will carry out the necropsy to try to identify the cause of death, DFO said on Sunday. "This will be the fourth necropsy performed this year."

There were no right whale deaths recorded in Canadian waters last year, but 12 were found dead in Canadian waters in 2017.

Necropsies on seven of them found four died from trauma consistent with vessel collisions, while two deaths were the result of entanglement in fishing gear.

The entire population of North Atlantic right whales is down to about 400.

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