Scientists suspect ship strike killed North Atlantic right whale known as Comet

Scientists have determined the third North Atlantic right whale to have died in Canadian waters this month was killed by blunt trauma, consistent with a ship strike. 

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans released the preliminary necropsy results on Saturday evening, as they plan for three more examinations. 

Comet was one of six critically endangered North Atlantic right whales found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year. 

The grandfather whale was believed to be about 33 years old. 

The necropsy was performed Friday in Norway, P.E.I., by the Marine Animal Response Society, DFO, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, the Atlantic Veterinary College, the province and the Canadian Coast Guard. 

Pathologists found Comet’s injuries to be “highly compatible with death due to blunt trauma”.

Necropsies on the first whale came back inconclusive, while the second death was also determined to be a ship strike.

This week Transport Canada implemented vessel speed restrictions in two shipping lanes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

On Monday, researchers will examine the sixth whale in the Gaspé Peninsula, a female known as Clipper. DFO is reviewing options for the necropsies of the two other whales. 

No right whales were recorded dying in Canadian waters last year, but 12 were found dead in Canadian waters in 2017.

Necropsies on seven of them found four died from trauma consistent with vessel collisions, while two deaths were the result of entanglement in fishing gear.

The population is estimated to be just over 400 remaining.

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