Right whales in trouble in gulf without change, says marine society

The preliminary findings of necropsies on three right whales show change is needed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, says the director of the Marine Animal Response Society.

All three whales showed evidence of human-caused injuries

In the Bay of Fundy ships have been moved away from whale feeding areas. (Annabel Beichman)

The preliminary findings of necropsies on three right whales show change is needed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, says the director of the Marine Animal Response Society.

Six dead right whales have been found in the gulf since early June, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working to confirm a report of a seventh dead whale from Wednesday. The whales are endangered, with only about 520 left.

Three were brought ashore for necropsies. Two suffered blunt trauma, most likely from collisions with ships.  The third was tangled in fishing gear.

Tonya Wimmer said ships are dangerous to whales, and they need to be moved out of the whales' feeding zones.

"The ideal scenario is you keep the two away from each other. You don't have vessels go where the whales go," said Wimmer.

Changes are needed to save right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, says Tonya Wimmer, director for the Marine Animal Response Society (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"That isn't always possible, because sometimes they are in areas which are the only places boats can go in terms of depth, or whether there's Islands or things like that."

In those cases ships can slow down, which can both make collisions less likely and reduce the severity of injuries if a collision does happen.

Changes to shipping routes in the Bay of Fundy, a traditional feeding ground for the whales, have led to fewer collisions there.

The whales have been moving into the Gulf of St. Lawrence in larger numbers in recent years, resulting in more human-whale interaction.

In addition to the six found dead, one was found caught in fishing gear this week but it was successfully released.

With files from Sarah MacMillan