Fisheries and Oceans Canada and partners conduct three necropsies in three days on North Atlantic Right Whales


MONCTON, NEW BRUNSWICK – Over the weekend, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and its partners performed necropsies on three of the whales found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In a complex operation, approximately 30 people assisted with the necropsies, including DFO experts, the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative-Atlantic Veterinary College, the Université de Montréal, the Marine Animal Response Society, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the Marine Mammal Commission, the NB Museum, Dalhousie University, and the provincial governments of Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island (PEI).

The first necropsy began Thursday, June 29, and by Saturday, July 1, all three were completed. Although six right whale carcasses were found, DFO plans to conduct only three necropsies given the other whales’ advanced state of decomposition.

It is too early to state with certainty the cause of death for these whales. DFO is waiting for complete results, which can take 6-8 weeks as scientists await results from testing on the tissue samples obtained during the necropsies. The Department will finalize its comprehensive review of the situation before publicly discussing any factors that may have contributed to the mortalities. Once this information is available, the Department will share it with the public through regular media updates.

DFO takes the protection and conservation of endangered species very seriously, and is concerned by the deaths of such an important species. The Department is committed to doing everything possible to understand what happened to these whales so that preventable whale deaths can be avoided in the future, however it is too early for DFO to discuss possible management measure changes in this regard.

The Department will continue to collect information on the presence of North Atlantic Right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Until recent years, North Atlantic Right whales were not normally seen in the Gulf and the Department needs to consider changes to their seasonal behaviour before determining what conservation measures may be needed.

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For more information:

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Kevin Lavigne
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada


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