News Release Article from  Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The Royal Ontario Museum to recover rare Northwest Atlantic blue whales

May 1, 2014 - Ottawa, Ontario

The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Janet Carding, Director and CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum, today announced they have reached an agreement to facilitate the recovery of up to two North Atlantic blue whale skeletons.

Blue whales are one of the largest animals to have ever lived on Earth. There are fewer than 250 mature (adult) blue whales in the Northwest Atlantic population. The chance to preserve, study and examine up to two skeletons is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and of great scientific and educational value for Canadians.

A team from the Royal Ontario Museum led by Dr. Mark D. Engstrom, Deputy Director, and Collections & Research will be travelling to Newfoundland to preserve the skeletons and tissue samples for scientific research. The skeletons will be accessible to the global research community.

Quick Facts

  • In April 2014, at least nine blue whales were caught in the ice off the southwest coast of Newfoundland and died. The remains of two whales washed ashore in the coastal communities of Rocky Harbour and Trout River, Newfoundland.
  • Blue whales are regularly seen along the southwest corner of Newfoundland in the spring where they feed along the ice edge.
  • It is unprecedented to have this number of blue whales perish at once in a single area. The deaths are likely as a result of severe ice conditions this winter in the North Atlantic, combined with the unique topography of the Newfoundland southwest coast.

Quotes

“While the loss is truly unfortunate, our Government is pleased that we are able to work with the Royal Ontario Museum to preserve these rare whale skeletons for future generations, and to help Canadians benefit in a meaningful way through this invaluable contribution to Canadian science,” said Minister Shea.

“This loss, representing up to 5% of this endangered species is extremely unfortunate. This is an important opportunity to further our understanding of these magnificent animals and provide an invaluable resource for Canadian science and education now and in the future," said Dr. Mark D. Engstrom, ROM Deputy Director, Collections & Research.

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Media contacts

Frank Stanek
Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
613-990-7537

Sophie Doucet
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-992-3474

Marnie Peters
Assistant Vice President, PR & Publications
Royal Ontario Museum
416-586-5858
marniep@rom.on.ca

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