On June 26th, DFO confirmed that a fifth right whale carcass was discovered. The body had beached on Anticosti Island, QC. Images were sent to the New England Aquarium this morning, and researchers were able to match the carcass using the Right Whale Catalog to a known individual based on the sex, remnants of a white chin pattern, left side mandibular islands, and a distinctive trailing fluke edge. This fifth dead whale is Catalog #3329.
Catalog #3329 was born during the 2003 calving season to mother #2029 (“Viola”) and father #1419. She has two brothers who are still alive, #3629 and #4129. #3329 had not yet have any calves of her own. In her 16 years of life, we know she experienced at least four entanglements in fishing gear based on the scars she bore.
Her last known sighting was recorded by the Center for Coastal Studies on April 25, 2019 in Cape Cod Bay. She was seen nearly every year since her birth, and used all of the major right whale habitats. Her first sighting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was in 2018, but she had not been photographed alive there this year.
The necropsy of the second dead right whale, “Punctuation,” did reach a definite cause of death- sharp trauma consistent with vessel strike. She had been hit by two other vessels in the past which left shallow wounds- this third vessel strike was obviously too massive to survive.
After the discovery of this fifth dead whale, Transport Canada implemented additional speed restrictions for a different part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, since the right whales are further north of where aggregations had been in previous years. A press release from the Minister of Transport:
“Due to the unfortunate deaths of a number of North Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters, Transport Canada is implementing an interim precautionary speed restriction of 10 knots, for vessels of 20 metres or more in length travelling in the western the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the two designated shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island. This measure is effective immediately.
“This measure is in addition to the fixed speed restriction introduced on April 28, 2019, in a large area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where vessels 20 metres or longer are restricted to a maximum of 10 knots until November 15, 2019.”