Entangled North Atlantic right whale spotted off northeastern N.B. coast

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A 38-year-old North Atlantic right whale named Meridian has been seen entangled in fishing gear in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence between Miscou Island, N.B. and the Magdalen Islands. (Submitted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada - image credit)
A 38-year-old North Atlantic right whale named Meridian has been seen entangled in fishing gear in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence between Miscou Island, N.B. and the Magdalen Islands. (Submitted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada - image credit)

Fisheries officials are searching the Gulf of St. Lawrence after a North Atlantic right whale was seen entangled in fishing gear off the coast of New Brunswick.

The 38-year-old whale, named Meridian, was spotted on June 30 in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence between Miscou Island, N.B. and the Magdalen Islands, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in a news release Tuesday.

"DFO is trying to find the whale, and marine mammal response partners are on standby," the department said.

"If the whale is seen again, and weather and sea conditions allow, efforts may be made in the coming days to attempt disentanglement."

The department said it does not yet know the type of gear the whale is entangled in or where it originated, as that can only be determined once the gear is removed and inspected.

DFO said the whale had previously been seen off the coast of Massachusetts on Feb. 11.

Meridian's 5th entanglement

The New England Aquarium in Boston, Mass. has been tracking Meridian since his birth in 1984, said Philip Hamilton, senior scientist with the organization's Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life.

He said this entanglement is the fifth time Meridian has been caught in fishing gear.

Matthew Bingley/CBC
Matthew Bingley/CBC

Three of the previous entanglements weren't serious, but the fourth was "quite severe" and resulted in the scar across the middle of his head, which gave inspiration for his name, Hamilton said.

Hamilton said it's difficult to tell just how severe Meridian's latest entanglement is, but added all entanglements pose some level of risk to a whale.

"In this particular sighting, his skin looks fairly healthy, he looks in relatively good condition, but whales can remain entangled for a very long time and the line causes drag on them," Hamilton said.

"We don't know what other gear is attached. Sometimes they're trailing buoys and traps... for months and it just wears them down, the rope cuts deeper and deeper into their tissue, and, you know, they die a slow death.

"So that's the concern is that's the way it'll go if it's not seen again and people aren't able to do something to help."

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said Meridian is the second North Atlantic right whale seen entangled in fishing gear this year.

The department said it continues to search for a 14-year-old right whale named Sundog, which was spotted entangled off the coast of Gaspé, Quebec on May 19.

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