Researchers at the New England Aquarium have identified the dead right whale found in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence as a nine-year-old male named Wolverine.
The young whale was sighted Tuesday during an aerial surveillance flight by researchers from the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s the first dead whale in Canadian waters reported in 2019.
Amy Knowlton, a senior right whale scientist with the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, said the animal got its name for three scars on his tail stock caused by propeller cuts that reminded researchers of the three blades on the hand of the Marvel comic book character of the same name.
“Wolverine endeared himself to the right whale research community as he was seen many times in all the main habitats from Florida to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and had endured both a vessel strike and three entanglements,” Knowlton said in a statement. “The right whale community is saddened by the loss of Wolverine, especially at such a young age.”
Canadian officials are working on plans to possibly tow and necropsy his carcass to possibly determine the cause of death, said a statement by the New England Aquarium.
After the massive death toll two years ago that saw a dozen right whales die in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the summer of 2017, and five more perish in U.S. waters in a matter of months, the federal government imposed strict regulations on fishing and shipping in the gulf.
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There were no deaths in Canadian waters in 2018, and Ottawa has since eased the restrictions.
With a population estimated at around 411, the endangered North Atlantic right whale has historically struggled due to lethal vessel strikes and entanglements throughout their range, but now the effects of climate change also put these whales further at risk, officials at the New England Aquarium said.