Since 2017 there have been two major right whale mortality events in Eastern Canada. Here we present the summary information for these events. Note that the information for the 2019 incident is preliminary as analyses are still underway. A 2019 Incident report will be released as soon as it’s available.

2017 Right Whale Mortality Event

Incident Summary

Between June 6th and September 15th, 2017, 12 dead North Atlantic right whales were reported in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (see 2017 Table below). Nine of these animals were observed floating in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and an additional four came ashore in western Newfoundland (see 2017 Map below). Of the 12 dead individuals, there were eight males and four females. Response to the mortality event included conducting complete examinations of the carcasses (i.e., necropsy) and additional diagnostic tests (e.g., histology, toxicology). Seven necropsies were performed. During the same timeframe, five free-swimming, entangled right whales were also documented in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

It was determined that two NARWs died from entanglement in fishing gear (probably acute, with subsequent drowning) and four others had findings compatible with acute death due to trauma, consistent with vessel strikes. The cause of death of one right whale could not be determined because of advanced post-mortem decomposition, but some observations in this animal suggested blunt trauma. No evidence was found to support the involvement of biotoxins, infectious diseases, or starvation as the primary causes of mortality in this investigation.

For incident details and complete findings, see  Incident Report: North Atlantic right whale mortality event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 2017 at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FYgirnuF0DQ8nhrlTYzU2OyB9C5upZ0p/view

Incident Report: North Atlantic right whale mortality event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 2017 available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FYgirnuF0DQ8nhrlTYzU2OyB9C5upZ0p/view

 

2019 Right Whale Mortality Event 

(*note – analyses are still ongoing for the 2019 incidents)

Incident Summary

Between June 4th and July 21st, 2019, 9 dead North Atlantic right whales were reported in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (see 2019 Table below). Of the 9 dead individuals, there were three males, four females and two individuals of unknown sex. Response to the mortality event included conducting complete examinations of the carcasses (i.e., necropsy) and additional diagnostic tests (e.g., histology, toxicology). Five necropsies were performed. Between June 29 – Aug 6, four free-swimming, entangled right whales were also documented in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Based on preliminary findings, it was determined that the cause of death of three whales were compatible with acute death due to sharp or blunt trauma, consistent with vessel strikes. Preliminary results for the other two individuals were inconclusive. For all individuals, additional analyses are being conducted and final results are still pending.

An incident report detailing the incident and complete findings for the 2019 Canadian incident will be released when available.