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2017 North Atlantic Right Whale Unusual Mortality Event

Since June 7, 2017, elevated North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) mortalities have occurred primarily in Canada.  A total of 16 confirmed dead stranded whales (12 in Canada; 4 in the U.S.), and five live whale entanglements in Canada have been documented to date.  An additional whale stranded in the U.S. in April of this year prior to the start of the UME bringing the annual total to 17 confirmed dead stranded whales (12 in Canada; 5 in the U.S.).

This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME).

The 2017 annual North Atlantic right mortalities includes one stranding in the U.S. in April 2017 prior to the UME. Note: Graph represents confirmed mortalities that were reported in each country and does not always reflect the location of the injury or death of the animal.  Carcasses may drift across national boundaries, therefore a carcass may be sighted or reported in one country even though the mortality occurred elsewhere.  Species or stocks that migrate across national boundaries often carry their illnesses, injuries, or exposures to toxins with them. For mortality determinations in these species, transboundary collaboration is critical in determining the causes of injury, illness, and mortality through in-depth review of the data from each animal.

Report a stranded or floating whale

The most important step members of the public can take to assist investigators is to immediately report any sightings of live whales in distress, live stranded or dead whales. In the U.S., make the report by calling the Greater Atlantic Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 866-755-6622 or the Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 877-433-8299.  For strandings in Canada, call the Marine Animal Response Society at 1-866-567-6277 or the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network at 1-877-722-5346, or contact the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards on VHF Channel 16. Do not approach or touch the whale. 

Why are whales stranding?

Full necropsy examinations have been conducted on 11 of the 17 whales and final results from the examinations are pending. Results from necropsies from 6 of the  Canadian whales can be found here.

As part of the UME investigation process, an independent team of scientists (Investigative Team) is being assembled to coordinate with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to review the data collected, sample future whales that strand and to determine the next steps for the investigation.

Dead floating North Atlantic right whale.  Photo Credit: NEFSC


FAQs are available for this ongoing North Atlantic right whale UME.

More Information

Updated: January 4, 2018