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New study offers insight and recommendations to reduce right whale deaths

A North Pacific right whale swims in the Bering Sea west of Bristol Bay on August 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NOAA Fisheries

FREDERICTON — A new study says more than half the 70 North Atlantic right whale deaths recorded over the last 16 years were the result of either entanglement in fishing gear or vessel collisions.

The findings are in a paper published today in the journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms.

A cause of death was determined for 43 of the 70 whales. Sarah Sharp, a veterinarian with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, says none of the adult and juvenile whales for which a cause of death was established had died from natural causes.

She says more aggressive efforts to protect the whales are needed. There are estimated to be only 411 North Atlantic right whales left, with deaths outpacing live births.

No right whales died in Canadian waters last year, but 12 were found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2017.

A nine-year-old male right whale was found dead in the gulf this month, but preliminary necropsy results were inconclusive.

The Canadian Press