A previously unidentified entangled North Atlantic right whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was spotted and tagged Friday, according to Philip Hamilton, a research scientist with the New England Aquarium.
The whale, No. 3125, is an 18-year-old male without a name.
After No. 3125 was spotted from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plane, rescuers on the J.D. Martin were able to attach a telemetry buoy to help track the whale.
The whale was previously spotted by officials on a Transport Canada plane east of the Gaspé Peninsula on July 4. It had a rope trailing from both sides of its head down its body.
It was not spotted again until Friday.
“It has multiple lines going through the mouth cutting deep into the head, cutting into the blowholes,” Hamilton said.
“The whale’s baleen has been broken or distorted and is sticking out the front of its mouth while its swimming with its mouth closed, so it’s a very challenging disentanglement.”
The Campobello Whale Rescue Team is planning to go into the water on Sunday to disentangle the whale. The NOAA plane and the J.D. Martin will also help with disentanglement efforts.
“The question will be whether or not the disentanglement is successful tomorrow.”
Two others partially disentangled
Two five-year-old male whales, No. 4423 and 4440, were partially disentangled by rescuers earlier this week.
Rescuers were able to partially remove fishing gear on No.4423 and cut the rope from No. 4440’s mouth and tail on July 17. Both whales are still being monitored.
No. 4423 was first spotted entangled on July 4 east off Miscou Island in northeastern New Brunswick. It may be the same entangled animals that was spotted in U.S. waters in April.
No. 4440 was first sighted on June 29 east of Miscou Island as well. It was also sighted on July 2 and July 5.
All three entangled whales were spotted in areas where a fishing ban was already in place.
Hamilton said information on the whales may decline after Tuesday because the J.D. Martin is heading to shore and the NOAA plane is leaving Monday.
“There will be less eyes on the water.”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and conservation and protection services will still be monitoring the area. The J.D. Martin and NOAA plane will return in August.
Entanglement in fishing gear has been identified or suspected in the deaths of other North Atlantic right whales in recent years.
Two North Atlantic right whales were found dead Thursday and Friday, pushing this year’s total to eight. The population of North Atlantic right whales is just over 400.
“That’s five per cent of the population that’s died in the last six weeks, plus these entanglements whose outcome we don’t know.”