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Quebec Bulletin
October-November 2017/Volume 20/Number 5

Special Brief (2nd section)
North Atlantic Right Whale Carcass Recovery: The Canadian Coast Guard's Essential Role

Photo of a Canadian Coast Guard vessel with an inflatable boat and a whale carcass
Once the carcass has been recovered, an inflatable boat is launched to attach the lines to the end of the whale's tail.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada employees were mobilized this summer in reaction to the North Atlantic right whale situation. In addition to working with its Marine Communications and Traffic Services team to enforce the temporary measure to reduce speed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Canadian Coast Guard played an important role in recovering right whale carcasses.

Photo of a whale carcass on a beach, with a mechanical shovel and people
The whale is towed to the location where the necropsy will take place.

Sighting of the Carcass
The first component that triggers operations is sighting of the carcass by a pleasure boater, a private company, or even during an Environment and Climate Change Canada routine surveillance flight. All sightings of living, dead or injured whales must be reported to the Canadian Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 or to the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network at 1-877-722-5346. Use of the Whale Alert app is also encouraged for signaling whale sightings.

Searching and Recuperation
When the right whale's approximate position is transmitted to the Canadian Coast Guard, it sends one of its vessels to the area identified to start the search for the carcass. Generally, detection is relatively easy because the mammal has a huge mass with a bulge that can be seen from a certain distance. When a right whale is sighted, the Canadian Coast Guard places a locator beacon signal to record the whale's exact location and, if necessary, turns in such a way that the wind does not blow the carcass's smell toward the vessel. Needless to say, the smell would be strong enough to awaken sleeping crew members. The crew then launches an inflatable boat to attach lines to the end of the whale's tail. When the lines are in place, the whale can be towed to the necropsy site.

Émilie Bisson
Canadian Coast Guard

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