Latest right whale deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence alarming

Punctuation and calf #3981 off the coast of Georgia in March 2009

In 2017, 12 North American right whales were found dead in Canadian waters and five in USA waters.

A marine biologist says the recent deaths of four endangered North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is alarming, given that the massive mammals are just arriving in Canadian waters.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) confirmed late Wednesday that a right whale was found dead on the shores of Anticosti Island near the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"If necessary, they need to be severe in their restrictions if they want to save these animals", he said in an interview Friday.

She said the first whale was a nine-year-old male named Wolverine and necropsy results were inconclusive.

The whales were found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick and west of the Magdalen Islands in Quebec.

The injuries that killed her were consistent with a vessel strike, but Baumgartner said Transport Canada has yet to restrict shipping lanes in that area.

Some areas in Atlantic Canada and Quebec where the whales have been spotted have also been closed to snow crab and lobster fisheries.

The cause of those deaths - when they could be determined - was either blunt force trauma from a suspected vessel strike or acute entanglement from fishing gear.

As well, he said Ottawa must invest more in supporting the marine mammal teams that are conducting tests on the whale carcasses.

Effective immediately, vessels will now be forced to abide by the speed restrictions of 10 knots.

However, the government will issue a fine of up to $25,000 to those who fail to follow the speed limit, Garneau said.

The measures included increased aerial surveillance, slower speed limits, restrictions on shipping lanes, and real-time monitoring with the help of underwater listening devices.

"Transport Canada continues to gather and analyze data to establish what changes, if any, should be made", he said. "She's probably one of the bigger ones that we have, unfortunately, had the privilege to do a necropsy on in the last couple of years".

The mitigation measures can be a headache for some fishermen, according to Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen's Union.

The second autopsy, for the right whale found on June 20, is still underway by a veterinary team from the University of Prince Edward Island, according to Wilkinson. That makes five dead whales discovered so far in 2019.

They have been listed as endangered since 1970 and remain one of the world's most endangered large whale species. The US federal government is also working to change the lobster fishery, mostly in ME, to preserve the whales by removing vertical lobster trap lines that can ensnare animals, the Associated Press reports.

"While we commend the Minister of Transport for swiftly enacting speed restrictions for vessels 65 feet or greater in length in waters where the whales are present, more needs to be done in Canada and the United States to prioritize the survival of the North Atlantic right whale", he wrote.

"The prediction is extinction if this continues and not in the long term, but rather in the short term", she said.

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