Nfld. & Labrador

Whale deaths up in N.L., but the province's whale rescuer isn't worried yet

Wayne Ledwell isn't sounding the alarm just yet.

21 whale deaths is a spike, but can be attributed to more monitoring

Wayne Ledwell says the increased numbers this year could be due to better monitoring. (Jane Adey/CBC)

There were 21 dead whales found in Newfoundland and Labrador waters, but Wayne Ledwell says the spike could be from increased monitoring.

The head of rescue group Whale Release and Strandings said he's not sounding the alarm, even though a normal year in the province sees five to 10 whales die in our waters or wash up on shore.

There's been an increase in aerial surveys due to the number of North Atlantic right whales reported dead in the last two years.

"We've had a lot of whales die here this year," Ledwell told CBC's The Broadcast. "Maybe the numbers are up because people are seeing more of them because there's more coverage on the water this year."

Among those reported dead this year were a pair of whales rare to the island.

One was a sei whale — similar in size to a fin whale, but not often seen off Newfoundland and Labrador. The other was a northern bottlenose whale, which are more often seen between northern Labrador and Norway.

Both were found on the Burin Peninsula.

The northern bottlenose whale was emaciated, Ledwell said.

"This animal was an extremely thin animal. You could see his vertebral column, so it was obviously sick."

Ledwell took samples from both whales and sent them for testing, but he said it's unlikely he'll ever find out why the northern bottlenose died.

They cleaned the carcass and took the skeleton of the bottlenose to display for educational purposes, he said. It was the first time he'd seen one in about 15 years.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The Broadcast

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