Although they seemed otherwise healthy, the North American right whales were all recently found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada. Now, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Marine Animal Response Society, the Canadian Coast Guard, and others are working together to find out why the whales died.
Right whales are considered the rarest of all whale species, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that only about 350 individuals still exist in the Northwest Atlantic, which was once home to tens of thousands. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada estimates 500 exist globally.
“For this species, even one animal is a hit to the population,” said Tonya Wimmer, director of the Marine Animal Response Society. The species never fully recovered from 20th-century whaling practices that drastically reduced their numbers. They are recognized under the Canadian government’s Species at Risk Act, and in the U.S., the animals …