The first right whale of the season has been spotted in Canadian waters after an unprecedented winter in which not a single calf was spotted.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a tweet on Tuesday that the whale was spotted off the coast of eastern Cape Breton during an aerial survey.
In the last year, at least 18 critically endangered North Atlantic Right whales have been found dead off the coast of the U.S. and Canada — that represents about four per cent of the population.
Scientists believe human activity, including shipping and fishing, are the primary cause.
ALERT ⚠️: The first right whale in Canadian waters this year has been reported. One of our C&P flights found a right whale swimming near eastern Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. https://t.co/7iXVk438ik #RightWhales pic.twitter.com/Ar7NsJZwhn
Earlier this year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans enacted new measures to help protect the approximately 450 whales left in the world. Those included closing parts of water off the coast of New Brunswick to lobster fishing, an earlier start and end to the snow crab fishery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, fixed and temporary closures where whales are spotted and earlier 10-knot speed restriction for ships travelling in the western Gulf.
The department said fishing will continue but harvesters should be on alert for any changes, should DFO decide there is a risk to the creatures.
This year marks the first that no right whale calves have been seen. Scientists expect to see mothers and calves making their way north toward Atlantic Canada by the end of February but so far not even one calf has been seen.