Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working with a half dozen agencies to determine why at least six endangered right whales died recently in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The whales were found floating near Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the first on June 6.
Operations began to bring the first whale to the shore near Norway, in the far west of P.E.I. Wednesday. Another whale is being towed to the site, and officials hope to bring in a third.
On Thursday morning one whale was hauled off the beach onto land, and a necropsy is set to begin.
The entire whale needs to be cut open to determine the cause of death, which isn’t always possible.
“Carcasses of an endangered species found in one specific area over a period of only three or four weeks is very, very worrisome,” said Pierre-Yves Daoust of Charlottetown’s Atlantic Veterinary College.
Daoust said a single necropsy will take about two days, and because of the size of the whales — averaging 70,000 kilograms — will involve hard labour and heavy equipment.
Suspected causes for the deaths are a toxic algae bloom, ship strikes, or fishing gear entanglement, but only a necropsy can determine the cause for sure. The final results could take weeks or even months.
Fisheries and Oceans has called in experts from across Canada and the U.S. to help.
- Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at the Atlantic Veterinary College
- Marine Animal Response Society
- University of North Carolina Wilmington
- Université de Montréal
- Marine Mammal Commission
- Provincial government of British Columbia
There are only about 525 right whales left.
The public is being asked to keep clear of the site to allow the scientists to do their work.