Fourth entangled North Atlantic right whale identified as 'Snake Eyes'

ÉTANG DU NORD, Que. — The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it has identified the fourth entangled North Atlantic right whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off the coast of the Iles-de-la-Madeleine.

The whale has been identified as Number EG1226, an older male named Snake Eyes that was first seen in 1979.

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Snake Eyes was last seen swimming freely in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on July 16, the department said in a news release.

Severe weather and winds prevented the Campobello Whale Rescue Team from travelling to the location of the entangled whale on Wednesday, it said.

While severe weather is expected to continue throughout the week, the team remains on standby to try to disentangle Snake Eyes when it clears, it said.

The Canadian Coast Guard vessel A. Leblanc has also been dispatched to the area and was on standby to assist in the response.

"In the meantime, aerial surveillance will continue, weather permitting, to monitor the status of the whale," it said.

In the last month four whales have been found entangled in ropes.

Of those two right whales one was seen entangled east of Gaspe, Que., and the other east of Miscou. A third was spotted by the Canadian Coast Guard east of Miscou, N.B., with a rope around its tail, apparently dragging something heavy.

The federal fishery officers and the Canadian Coast Guard removed 101 lost snow crab traps from the Gulf of St. Lawrence about two weeks ago as part of the effort to protect the endangered marine mammal.

The "ghost gear" removal occurred over three days and also took more than nine kilometres of rope from the water, the Fisheries Department said.

Measures taken to prevent the endangered whales, which number around 400, from being hit by ships and getting caught in fishing gear may not be enough to keep them from being hurt or killed in Atlantic waters, said a federal study.

Joe Gaydos with the SeaDoc Society out of the University of California, Davis, said Wednesday, the "all hands on deck" approach is the right way to respond.

"I hope they are able to relocate EG1226 and disentangle him," he said. "This population can't stand to lose any more animals."

Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, said right whales may travel in small groups. They are not super social co-operative hunters that stay in close knit families like the Southern resident killer whales.

"They are completely different. They don't really have pods I guess," Haulena said.

"Loss of any animal in an endangered species is a big deal because it does mean all of their reproductive potential and genetic contributions are gone."

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