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.
The interim speed restriction of 10 knots affects vessels of 20 metres or more in length travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence, in two designated shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island.
This measure is in addition to the fixed speed restriction introduced in April in a large area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where vessels are restricted to a maximum of 10 knots until Nov. 15.
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.
There were no right whale deaths recorded 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 entire population of North Atlantic right whales is down to about 400.