Report on North Atlantic right whale deaths released

Thursday, October 5, 2017
L-R: Dr. Émilie L. Couture, Dr. Pierre-Yves Daoust, Matthew Hardy, and Tonya Wimmer speak with media at a news conference held at AVC to release a report into the deaths of endangered right whales.

The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) released today a report on the deaths of North Atlantic right whales (NARWs) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this past summer.

Veterinarians Dr. Pierre-Yves Daoust, pathologist and professor, Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC), and Émilie L. Couture, Zoo de Granby and the Université de Montréal, presented their findings at a widely attended news conference at the Atlantic Veterinary College. Daoust and Couture are members of the CWHC.

Entitled “Incident Report: North Atlantic Right Whale Mortality Event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 2017,” the report describes the key findings of the necropsies and provides contextual information on the conditions and human activities occurring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The report was prepared and released in partnership with the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Tonya Wimmer, Director of the Marine Animal Response Society, Matthew Hardy, spokesperson for the Science Branch in DFO’s Gulf Region, and Jane Weldon, Director General, Marine Safety and Security at Transport Canada, participated in the news conference.

Since early June, 12 of the endangered whales have been found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and five live-entanglements were documented. Another three were found dead off the coast of the USA.

Necropsies were performed on six whales brought to shore in Norway, PEI; Magdalen Islands QC; and Miscou, NB. Of the six, necropsies revealed that four died from blunt-force trauma, and one died after chronic entanglement in fishing gear; the cause of death could not be determined in another because it was too decomposed. A necropsy was performed on a seventh NARW brought to shore in Miscou on September 19, 2017, but those results are not yet available.

The report states that necropsy findings of trauma and entanglement coincide with high level of fisheries and maritime traffic in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and more research is needed to understand NARW habitat use in the Gulf as well as human activities in these waters to prevent further deaths.

To read the complete report, go to

Anna MacDonald
AVC External Relations Officer
Atlantic Veterinary College
(902) 566-6786
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