New Brunswick

Dead right whale found, necropsy Friday on Miscou Island

A necropsy will be conducted Friday on the dead north Atlantic right whale that was seen drifting off Quebec's Gaspé coast earlier this week.

Whale known as Wolverine located Wednesday after being discovered earlier in week

Pictured in 2011, Wolverine, a male endangered north Atlantic right whale, was found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Tuesday. Wolverine was so named for a series of three propeller cuts on his tail stock that reminded researchers of the three blades on the hand of the Marvel comic book character of the same name. (Sheila McKenney/Associated Scientists of Woods Hole/Marineland Right Whale Project)

A necropsy will be conducted Friday on the dead north Atlantic right whale that was seen drifting off Quebec's Gaspé coast earlier this week.

The whale, identified as a nine-year-old male named Wolverine, was well-known to the research community. The whale was identified by three characteristic scars on its tail stock. 

The scars were the result of a ship strike during the whale's first few years. It had also survived three entanglements in fishing gear. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the Canadian Coast Guard vessel CCGS A. LeBlanc discovered the whale Wednesday. It has since been towed and secured just off Miscou Island. It will be towed to shore before the necropsy.

The whale was observed during an aerial surveillance flight by researchers from the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in an area that's been closed to non-tended fixed-gear fishing since May 17.

North Atlantic right whales returned to Canadian waters early this year. They were spotted via surveillance planes as early as mid-May.

It is not known when or where the whale died or the cause of the death. It will be several months before the results are known following the necropsy. 

Members of the Marine Animal Response Society in Halifax are on Miscou Island to take part in the necropsy of a dead right whale discovered earlier this week. The whale has been identified as a nine-year-old male named Wolverine. (Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC)

Tonya Wimmer, executive director of the Marine Animal Response Society in Halifax, said doing the necropsy is important.

"The population is so small and really every animal at this stage does count. So it is pretty heartbreaking even if it is just one animal," said Wimmer.

First death in 2019

This is the first right whale death in Canadian waters in since 2017. There were none in 2018 after Ottawa implemented tough protective measures.

Those measures came into effect after 18 right whale deaths in 2017, 12 of which occurred in Canadian waters. 

The federal government eased restrictions aimed at protecting north Atlantic right whales this year, based on data from 2018.

The area out of bounds to fishermen was reduced to a third of what it was the year before, and restrictions no longer automatically apply to shallower waters where lobster are fished.

The area where speeding restrictions are in place is also slightly smaller.

Wimmer said until the necropsy is completed and more information is known, they can't even speculate on the cause. 

There are a little more than 400 north Atlantic right whales left in the world.

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy

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