Fisheries officials to examine dead right whale in western N.L.
The latest North Atlantic right whale to be found dead on the East Coast is so decomposed officials say we will likely never know what killed it.
“It’s a very flattened whale. It’s like a right whale pancake, so it’s been drifting and dead for quite a while,” Jack Lawson, a research scientist with the Fisheries Department, said in an interview.
Lawson said the whale washed up on a rocky shore near Trout River in western Newfoundland.
Lawson said based on the degree of decay, it’s possible the remains belong to one of the eight North Atlantic right whales seen floating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in recent weeks.
“There was a whale that was seen in June off the southwest coast of Newfoundland drifting out at sea and this could be that whale.”
Fisheries officials are taking photographs and samples of the whale and comparing it the floating corpse spotted in the area last month, Lawson said.
“If it’s the same animal that was seen a month ago, that’s good,” he said. “If this is not a new animal, that means we’ve seen what we’ve seen, and hopefully the mortalities for this species in the gulf are all documented and finished.”
Officials are using genetic testing to see if they can find a match for the carcass from a catalogue of right whales that has been maintained by scientists.
North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered, with only about 525 estimated alive.
Last week, another right whale was hauled to New Brunswick’s Miscou Island last week in a bid to determine the cause of death, while another right whale was found entangled in fishing gear in the gulf.
Fisheries officials say a dead right whale, shown in this undated handout image, washed up on a rocky shore on the west coast of Newfoundland.