Wolverine

RESEARCH & REPORTS

MARS is committed to unlocking the transformational power of scientific research.  Our research aims to generate evidence that directly improves the heath of marine animals and ocean ecosystems, while also influencing policy and practice. The studies we lead and participate in give rise to solutions that are scalable and transferrable to settings where marine animals face challenges around the world.

FEATURED RESEARCH

BEYOND THE NUMBERS:

A 15-Year Retrospective of Cetacean Incidents in Eastern Canada

Wimmer, T and C. Maclean. 2021. Beyond the Numbers: a 15-year Retrospective of Cetacean Incidents in Eastern Canada. Produced by the Marine Animal Response Society. 69pp.
MARS-Incident-Report-COver

SUMMARY

Cetaceans are important for ocean ecosystems and overall global climate. According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessments, 35% of cetaceans fall into threatened categories. While large-scale commercial whaling ceased in the late 1980s, human-induced pressures still exist. Fishing, vessel traffic, pollution, plastics and noise pollution impact hundreds of thousands of cetaceans every year. Sadly, cetaceans in Canada are not exempt from these impacts, with over 40% of the species in Canadian waters classified as at-risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

A wide range of information is required for the recovery and protection of cetacean populations. For decades, marine animal response organizations and networks have been providing these data by investigating incidents involving dead and distressed cetaceans.

This report examined opportunistic data collected from reported cetacean incidents between 2004 and 2019 by the three marine animal incident reporting hotlines in Eastern Canada (Réseau Québécois d’urgences pour les mammifères marins, RQUMM, in Quebec; Whale Release and Strandings in Newfoundland & Labrador; and the Marine Animal Response Society, MARS, in the Maritime Provinces). This included incidents involving dead animals (carcasses) as well as live animals (entanglements, entrapments, strandings, vagrants and sick/injured). Incidents involving sightings of healthy free-swimming animals or reports of harassment were not included.

Read the full report HERE.
Read the Executive Summary HERE.
Read the Results Summary HERE.
For supplemental information, click HERE.

For Media Kit, click HERE.

Between 2004 and 2019, there were 3,136 cetacean incidents reported to Eastern Canadian response hotlines.

44% of all reported incidents in Eastern Canada involved an at-risk cetacean species.

Proportion of incidents involving cetacean families of the total dead or live-distressed incidents reported.

Dead animals represent 70% of all cetacean incidents in Eastern Canada. For 93% of these, the cause of death is unknown as many animals could not be examined.

Overall, the key findings of this report were:

25 cetacean species were documented over the timeseries, with humpback and minke whales representing 76% of all reported mysticete incidents (27% of total incidents) and harbour porpoise and beluga whales representing 65% of all reported odontocete incidents (36% of total incidents).

At-risk cetacean species were involved in 44% of all reported cetacean incidents (primarily harbour porpoises, beluga whales and fin whales). North Atlantic right whales (the primary focus of government initiatives and research in Eastern Canada) comprised only 6% of all reported mysticete incidents (only 2% of total incidents).

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is an area of great concern with 47% of all of the reported mysticete incidents between 2004 and 2019. Contrary to the primary species of government focus, 93% of mysticete incidents in the Gulf of St. Lawrence involved species other than North Atlantic right whales. Of these, minke whales were the most common mysticete reported every year (54%), followed by humpback (16%) and fin whales (13%). Blue and right whales were a lower percentage of incidents (4% and 7%, respectively).

Overall, Cause of Death (CoD) was reported to have been determined for 7% of animals where the species was identified. Despite this low overall number, CoD was determined for 52% of cases involving North Atlantic right whales which only comprised 1.6% of identified carcasses. In contrast, CoD was determined for only 0 to 19% of the carcasses for all of the other 24 documented species.

Entanglements were the most predominant determined CoD (46%) with disease or emaciation and vessel strikes comprising most of the remaining incidents (22% and 15%, respectively).

Signs of Human Interaction (HI) were reported in 23% of total reported cetacean incidents. Unfortunately, in 49% of cases it was not clear if signs of HI were looked for or not.

When HI was present, it was primarily fishing-related (60.6%), unknown entanglements (28.3%) or vessel strikes (7.4%).

Dead animals (i.e. carcasses) consistently make up the majority of reported incidents (69% throughout entire time series). Despite this, there is limited capacity and support to examine carcasses, especially dead cetaceans reported floating at sea.

Cause of Death was not determined for 94% of incidents where the animal was reported as dead, or which had been alive and later died.

In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, mysticete floaters represent 47% of reported incidents, but only 8% of these were retrieved for necropsy, and 93% of those were right whales. Only 1 non-right whale species (a minke) was brought to shore and later necropsied.

Over the time series, reported incidents of both dead and live-distressed cetaceans increased (incidents of dead cetaceans consistently exceeded those of live incidents throughout time series).

In 15 years, it is projected that reported incidents will increase by an additional 144 reports annually (115 dead and 29 live).

GO BEYOND THE NUMBERS

This supplemental information to Beyond the Numbers: A 15-Year Retrospective of Cetacean Incidents in Eastern Canada provides a detailed look into the individual cetacean families involved in incidents.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Continuing to ignore what is happening to species in Canadian waters does not stop threats nor species declines from happening.

Future generations should be provided every opportunity to see for themselves the beauty of these animals. It is our responsibility to protect these species from human threats and ensure our activities do not reduce their quality of life. Our actions today will dictate how we will be remembered.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Continuing to ignore what is happening to species in Canadian waters does not stop threats nor species declines from happening.

Future generations should be provided every opportunity to see for themselves the beauty of these animals. It is our responsibility to protect these species from human threats and ensure our activities do not reduce their quality of life. Our actions today will dictate how we will be remembered.

This report would not have been possible without funding from WWF-Canada / CSL Group, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, The Ocean Foundation and the Marine Animal Response Society.

RESEARCH COLLABORATIONS

MARS actively contributes and seeks to collaborate on ongoing research projects.
To request marine animal samples from ongoing response efforts:

For more information about data requests, sample collection and other areas of interest, please email mars@marineanimals.ca

DIVE DEEPER

PUBLICATIONS

BEYOND THE NUMBERS: A 15-Year Retrospective of Cetacean Incidents in Eastern Canada

2020. Wimmer, T and C. Maclean. 2021. Beyond the Numbers: a 15-year Retrospective of Cetacean Incidents in Eastern Canada. Produced by the Marine Animal Response Society. 69pp.


Serious Injury and Mortality Determinations for Baleen Whale Stocks along the Gulf of Mexico, United States East Coast, and Atlantic Canadian Provinces, 2013-2017

2020. AG Henry, M Garron, D Morin, A Reid, W Ledwell, TVN Cole. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 20-06; 53 p.


Incident Report: North Atlantic Right Whale Mortality Event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 2017

2017. Daoust, P.-Y., Couture, E.L., Wimmer, T., and Bourque, L. Collaborative Report Produced by: Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, Marine Animal Response Society, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 256 pp.


A timely opportunity to protect North Atlantic right whales in Canada

2017. Brillant, S.W., Wimmer, T., Rangeley, R.W. and Taggart, C.T.  Marine Policy 81: 160-166.


Serious injury and mortality determinations for baleen whale stocks along the Gulf of Mexico, United States East Coast, and Atlantic Canadian Provinces, 2011-2015

2017. Henry, A.G., Cole, T.V.N., Garron, M., Ledwell, W., Morin, D., Reid, A. 2017.  US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 17-19; 57p.


Serious injury and mortality determinations for baleen whale stocks along the Gulf of Mexico, United States East Coast and Atlantic Canadian Provinces, 2010-2014

2016. Henry, A.G., Cole, T.V.N., Hall, L., Ledwell, W., Morin, D., Reid, A.  US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 16-10; 51 p.


Mortality and Serious Injury Determinations for Baleen Whale Stocks along the Gulf of Mexico, United States East Coast and Atlantic Canadian Provinces, 2009-2013

2015. Henry, A.G., Cole, T.V.N., Hall, L., Ledwell, W., Morin, D., and Reid, A. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 15-10; 45p.


Vessel strikes to large whales before and after the 2008 Ship Strike Rule

2014. van der Hoop, J. M., Vanderlaan, A. S. M. , Cole, T. V. N., Henry, A. G., Hall, L., Mase-Guthrie, B., Wimmer, T. and Moore, M.J. Conservation Letters. doi: 10.111/conl.12105.


Errata: Erratum to “Vessel Strikes to Large Whales Before and After the 2008 Ship Strike Rule”

Volume 9, Issue 3, 236, Article first published online: May 2016.


Mortality determinations for baleen whale stocks along the Gulf of Mexico, United States east coast, and Atlantic Canadian provinces, 2008 – 2012

2014. Henry A.G., Cole, T.V.N., Hall, L., Ledwell, W., Morin, D., Reid, A. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 14-10; 17 p.


Mortality Determinations for Baleen Whale Stocks along the Gulf of Mexico, United States East Coast, and Atlantic Canadian Provinces, 2007-2011

2013. Henry, A.G., Cole, T.V.N., Hall, L., Ledwell, W., Morin, D. and Reid, A. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 13-18; 15 p.


Assessment of management to mitigate anthropogenic effects on large whales. Conservation Biology

2012. van der Hoop, J., Moore, M.J., Barco. S.G., Cole, T., Daoust, P-Y, Henry, A., McAlpine, D.F., McLellan, W.A., Wimmer, T., Solow, A.R. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01934.


Mortality and Serious Injury Determinations for Baleen Whale Stocks along the Gulf of Mexico, United States East Coast and Atlantic Canadian Provinces, 2006-2010

2012. AG Henry, TVN Cole, M Garron, L Hall, W Ledwell, and A Reid. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 12-11; 24 p.


Cetacean strandings in the Canadian Maritime provinces, 1990–2008

2010. Nemiroff, L., Wimmer, T., Daoust, P-Y., McAlpine, D.F.  Canadian Field-Naturalist. 124(1), pp32–44. 

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

Mortality Event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 2017

2017. Right Whale Consortium. Daoust, P-Y., Couture, É.L., Wimmer, T., Bourque, L., Ratelle, S., Hardy, M. North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis)  (do not cite without authors permission).


Strandings in the Canadian Maritime Provinces, 1990–2014

2015. 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. Wimmer, T., Reid, G.A., Daoust P-Y. and McAlpine, D. (Links to poster pdf – SMM 2015 Poster).


Response to dead and distressed North Atlantic right whales in Canada

2015. Right Whale Consortium. Wimmer, T. Reid, G.A., Brown, M. and Michaud, R. 

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