'Gruesome' blob of flesh found floating in ocean sparks alarm

Another North Atlantic right whale has been discovered dead by a surveillance plane.

A surveillance plane has captured vision of a rotting whale carcass of Nova Scotia.
The rotting carcass of a North Atlantic right whale has been discovered off the coast of Canada. Source: Transport Canada

A decaying blob of flesh has been photographed floating 140 kilometres from shore in the North Atlantic, sparking concern from marine mammal experts.

Only the lower half of the creature remains, and experts are hoping to gather genetic information to better understand what killed the rare and endangered North Atlantic right whale. Because the whale is so heavily decomposed, the cause of death cannot be determined, however ship strikes caused by speeding vessels as well as fishing gear entanglement are major causes of the species’ demise.

Prior to the discovery of the carcass on May 12, at least five other deaths have been documented this year. There are only 356 individuals remaining, and of them only 70 are breeding females.

Marine Animal Response Society reported the discovery of the dead whale on Wednesday (local time). They became aware of it after a Transport Canada aerial surveillance plane snapped vision of it off the southwest coast of Nova Scotia.

Related: 10 per cent of critically endangered whales enter deadly shipping lane

A North Atlantic right whale entangled in ropes and plastic.
Entanglement is a major threat to North Atlantic right whales. Source: Nick Hawkins via IFAW

Responding to the whale’s death, Oceana Canada’s Kim Elmslie said the Northern Hemisphere winter had been “especially hard” on North Atlantic Right Whales. “The gruesome discovery of this latest North Atlantic right whale is another devastating loss to the species,” she said.

The charity’s United States campaigner warned with North Atlantic right whale deaths stacking up this year, extinction is getting closer. He called on the country’s President Joe Biden to reduce vessel speed limits and enact stronger measures to reduce shipping rope and line entanglements.

“Each death is a devastating blow to their recovery. The US and Canadian governments must act now to save North Atlantic right whales from extinction, while they still have the chance. Continued delays result in more whale deaths like this one and the potential extinction of an entire species,” he said.

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