Environment Media release

Media release: Emergency actions needed to protect remaining North Atlantic Right Whales

“With four dead right whales reported in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, more needs to be done to prevent more deaths,” states Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director at Sierra Club Canada Foundation.

The cause of the deaths of the whales has not been determined but researchers are desperately trying to find out why these whales died. The 12 right whale deaths in the Gulf of St Lawrence in 2017 were linked to entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes.

Temporary fisheries closure measures and shipping speed restrictions were announced in April of 2019 to prevent additional whale deaths. For each of these measures, the rules are only as good as the eyes on the water to spot whales and trigger a response by regulators and industry.

“We are going to have to act quickly if we are to see this species survive,” according to Fitzgerald. “Over the last three weeks, we have seen the death of one percent of the remaining right whale population and the summer has only begun. One of the whales found dead, Punctuation, was a female whale that had herself been entangled five times and her children and grandchildren had also been victims of ship strikes and gear entanglements.

The impact of losing one reproductive female could be devastating to the population. I fear that without greater protections, we will see the extinction of this species.”

“There is mounting evidence that the Gulf will be heavily impacted by climate change and fish such as herring and cod are on a precipice. These whales are making their summer home in a place that needs concerted efforts at protection and restoration,” according to Fitzgerald. “Their deaths must trigger greater protection of the Gulf as a whole.”