Oceana Canada statement on the death of the North Atlantic right whale calf discovered on June 25

Press Release Date: June 30, 2020

North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. That is why Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation, launched a campaign in Canada and the U.S. to help save the North Atlantic right whale from extinction.

“We are devastated to hear of the death of the North Atlantic right whale calf that was found off the coast of New Jersey,” said Kim Elmslie, Campaign Director for Oceana Canada. “It was one of only ten calves born this year. Earlier this year a second newborn right whale was struck by a vessel and sustained devastating injuries and is presumed dead. With each death, we are counting down to the extinction of this endangered species.”

At least 31 North Atlantic right whales have been killed since 2017 — 21 of them in Canadian waters. Today, there are only about 400 right whales left. 

This 7-month-old male calf died before it was named. It was the first calf born during the 2019-2020 calving season and lived an unnaturally short and tragic life – having been struck twice by vessels. Over the winter this little calf was seen off the coast of Pensacola Florida, before returning to the Atlantic and migrating north with his mother – right whale #3560. She has not been seen since the death of her calf. Just like humans, whales need their mothers, and calves usually stay close to their mothers for up to two years. We are concerned that the mother has not been sighted since the discovery of her dead calf – especially considering that the cause of death has been confirmed as a ship strike. This was the first calf born to whale #3560.

Researchers have found that pregnant females and mothers with calves may be more susceptible to strikes, as they spend more time resting at the surface. On June 3, 2020, we saw the first mother-calf pair in the Gulf of St. Lawrence – Harmonia and her third baby. Harmonia’s family tree is an example of the danger that right whales face every day, Harmonia’s first calf was killed by a ship strike in 2010 and her second calf, Gully, has wounds from entanglements in fishing gear. 

To protect right whales, the government introduced a voluntary slowdown to 10 knots in the Cabot Strait – the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence – from April 28 to June 15. This is an area that right whales pass through in search of food. Earlier this month Oceana Canada released data that showed that between May 19 and 25, 72 per cent of vessels were not complying with a voluntary speed restriction in the Cabot Strait. To fully protect these whales the government must make this speed restriction mandatory. A full report on compliance rates from April 28 to June 15 will be released in July.

“We must do everything possible to protect right whales from ship strikes and other human-caused deaths,” said Elmslie. “This includes making all slowdowns mandatory.”

For information about the analysis and to learn more, visit: Oceana.ca/Cabot-Strait.

To request an interview, contact: Tammy Thorne, Oceana Canada, tthorne@oceana.ca, 437-583-2360

Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future.