North Atlantic right whale to be examined
Marine mammal experts began carving up the remains of another endangered North Atlantic right whale on Friday in a bid to determine what caused the death of the latest whale to be found floating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Matthew Hardy of the Fisheries Department said around 30 people were assisting in the necropsy — or animal autopsy — being conducted near a lighthouse on the northern tip of Miscou Island, N.B. The animal is the eighth North Atlantic right whale to have died in the Gulf over the last six weeks.
Hardy said the whale was first spotted Wednesday afternoon east of Shippigan, N.B., while another right whale was found entangled in fishing gear in the in the Gulf.
“We’re responding to this in a very ... proactive manner to try and get to the bottom of this,’’ Hardy said in an interview Friday. “This opens more questions than we’ve answered.’’
A full-sized excavator was on site, peeling back layers of blubber so scientists can look at the animal’s internal organs, Hardy said. He described the smell as “unforgettable,’’ but said the 14-metre carcass is in fresher condition than the rotting remains that were examined in the previous five necropsies.
The Fisheries Department closed a snow crab fishing area encompassing most of the southern Gulf to protect right whales from the dangers posed by fishing gear.
“This is sort of a first for the department, to make an emergency closure like this,’’ Hardy said. “It’s that serious when we have eight confirmed mortalities of a population of about 500 (right whales).’’
In a statement Thursday, the Fisheries Department acknowledged that the closure could have an impact on fishermen, but said the measure was warranted by the “unprecedented’’ string of North Atlantic right whale deaths in the Gulf. Officials added that 98 per cent of the allowable snow crab catch in the area has already been harvested.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has asked Fisheries to keep a close watch on the issue.
“This is something that is extremely concerning to me,’’ he said in Shelburne, N.S., when asked about the situation. “We know we need to take very seriously threats to marine mammals and that is why we’re doing our due diligence on that and trying to understand what happened and how we can make sure it doesn’t happen any more.’’