New Brunswick

Scientists begin necropsy on north Atlantic right whale

A team of scientists began the necropsy Friday on the north Atlantic right whale found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence earlier this week.

Scientists won't know results of necropsy for months

Wolverine, a nine-year-old north Atlantic right whale, is the first whale death reported in 2019. (Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC)

A team of scientists began the necropsy Friday on the north Atlantic right whale found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence earlier this week.

The nine-year-old whale, named Wolverine, is the first right whale death reported in 2019 after no deaths were reported in Canadian waters last year.

Wolverine was towed to shore on Miscou Island, where more than 20 people from the scientific community sliced began to collect tissue samples and gather measurements to help determine the cause of death.

Scientists won't know the results of the necropsy until months from now, however.

Scientists say the death of the first north Atlantic right whale in Canadian waters this year was ‘not a natural death.’ 0:27

Stéphanie Ratelle, a biologist for the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said there are only 417 right whales left in the world.

A live picture from 2011 of Wolverine, a male, endangered right whale, that was found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on June 4. 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)

"There's a lot of work going on from the government to industry to research to the academics … everyone is working very hard to protect these animals, so this is incredibly disheartening," Ratelle said.

"Any mortality is detrimental to the population."

The green dot on the map indicates where the dead right whale was spotted during an aerial surveillance. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Scientists have said it's unlikely the whale died of natural causes. Wolverine was found belly up in a pool of blood off Quebec's Gaspé coast during an aerial surveillance flight on Tuesday.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Marine Animal Response Society and researchers from the University of Prince Edward Island and the University of Montreal are working together to perform the necropsy.

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy and Alix Villeneuve

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