NEWS

Fishing gear suspected in death of right whale

07/25/2012 01:17 EDT | Updated 09/24/2012 05:12 EDT
Scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Marine Animal Response Society, plus veterinarians from the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, are trying to find out what killed a rare, North Atlantic right whale that washed ashore in Nova Scotia.

The whale is on Flat Point Road, across from Clam Harbour Provincial Park.

The non-profit Marine Animal Response Society says the whale has been dead for a long time, and that its carcass is barely recognizable. Society president Tonya Wimmer said the animal appears to have gotten tangled in some fishing gear.

"This animal actually has a very large amount of rope that is wrapped around its tail, which is obviously a concern," she said.

"We don't know yet what the cause of death was — we don't know if that played a role."

While scientists suspect the long, green rope tangled around the whale's tail is a key indicator in its death, it's not clear whether the rope came from fishing gear, a failed rescue attempt or another source.

The team of veterinarians will conduct a necropsy on the right whale today.

Wimmer says it's critical to find the cause of death, because right whales are endangered. It's believed there are only about 500 of them left.

"In order to protect these species, and in particular in order to help them recover, we absolutely have to understand what happened to them," she said. "And then we have to figure out … how do we make sure those events don't happen anymore?"

Excavators are on site to remove the whale's carcass.

Right whales move between Canada and the U.S., and spend the early fall in the waters off our coast.

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