Photo courtesy of Joyce Morrell -
Researchers Investigate the carcass of a 31-foot endangered northern right
whale on Tuesday on Campobello Island. The young whale, a female, was found
floating Monday off Grand Manan by a whale-watching operator. Opponents of an
LNG facility in Maine say the death shows a proposed project is too dangerous
to marine life, but researchers have: yet to decide how and where the whale
Whale death fuels
Passamaquoddy Bay terminal opponents say
whale hit near ship route
Saint John - An
opponent of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Downeast Maine hopes
the discovery of a young northern right whale floating off Grand Marian on
Monday may be enough to derail the controversial project that would bring
tanker traffic into Passamaquoddy Bay.
"This little whale
could turn out to be a poster child," said Art MacKay, the executive director
of the St. Croix Estuary Project in St. Stephen. "It speaks to the LNG issue
"It is hard to say where the whale was
struck, but it appears it was found directly in the route leading into
Passamaquoddy Bay. My understanding is that it was near an area that we've been
arguing is one of the most important calving and feeding grounds for whales in
this part of the bay.
"Hopefully, the little guy's life
won't go to waste."
Researchers from the New England
Aquarium in Boston and the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of
Prince Edward Island were studying the whale's carcass Tuesday on a beach in
Head Harbour, a deep inlet on Campobello Island near East Quoddy Lighthouse.
The whale was towed there Monday by Mack Greene, a whale watching tour operator
in Campobello who sometimes works on a research vessel for the New England
Jerry Conway, the marine mammal co-ordinator
for Fisheries & Oceans Canada, said the cause of death was uncertain,
although the whale had gashes on its right side. The results of a necropsy on
Tuesday by Amy Knowleton of the New England Aquarium will help determine if the
whale died from injuries inflicted when struck by a ship, or if it was already
dead when a collision occurred.
Conway said early
indications were that the damage seemed consis tent with the whale being struck
by a smaller vessel, similar to the size of a fishing boat.
"There is no indication this was caused by a large
vessel, like a tanker," Conway said.
The endangered whale
measured 31 feet long and was a female, between a year and a half and two years
old. That news left tourism operators heartbroken. Scientists estimate the
northern right whale's population at only about 350 animals.
"That means another breeding possibility just went out
the door," said John Eldridge of Quoddy Link Marine, which runs whale watching
excursions out of St. Andrews. An employee of Quoddy Link was scouting for
whales on Monday morning from an inflatable boat when he discovered the animal
floating in the Bay of Fundy about three miles east of Whale Cove on Grand
Greene, who runs three whale watching trips a day
out of Head Harbou rWharf, was asked to tow the animal to shore Monday by the
federal Fisheries Department. He said the 11-mile trip to Campobello took him
five hours. His 20-passenger boat isn't built to tow a whale that weighs about
Greene is opposed to LNG because he believes
increased tanker traffic poses a threat to the whales. But he said Tuesday that
there is no way to connect the right right whale's death to LNG, or even to
local tanker traffic.
"It looked to me like the whale was
dead for at least one week, and possibly two," Greene said. "As strong as the
tides are in the Bay of Fundy, it could have been hit in the Gulf of Maine or
off the southeast coast of Nova Scotia and then brought here. But it is sad,
"The right whale is probably the best whale to
watch. When it comes to surface activity, when you get 10 or 20 of them
together, there is nothing that matches it in the world."
Canadians from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on down to
people who live and work around Passmaquoddy Bay are opposed to LNG projects in
the region because they believe it is too dangerous to bring tankers through
Head Harbour Passage, which is between Campobello and Deer Island.
Three LNG terminals have been proposed, but the closest
to fruition belongs to Oklahoma-based Quoddy Bay LNG, which wants to build an
$800-million terminal on tribal land at Point Pleasant, Me., with a storage
tank farm in nearby Perry, Me. The proposed site of the pier where LNG tankers
would dock is directly across the bay from Deer Island.
Brian Smith, the project manager for Quoddy Bay LNG,
express regret over the whale's death through a company spokesman.
"We are saddened by the loss of one of Maine's endangered
mammals, and hope that we, as part of the local community, can learn to better
protect the environment by investigating the causes of its death," he said.
"This news reinforces our efforts at Quoddy Bay to develop a comprehensive plan
to mitigate all potential effects on marine life, whether endangered or
plentiful, to ensure the protection of the bay environment."
Measures taken to protect right whales include moving
tanker traffic in the Bay of Fundy. The whales, which lumber along slowly, were
congregating in a fairly compact, oval-shaped area near Grand Manan, right in
the middle of an inbound shipping lane.
Tuesday that moving the shipping lanes has proved to be extremely effective -
sightings are down in high-traffic areas by 80 per cent.
"But if this turns out to be caused by a ship strike,
it's still a concern," he said.
Marty Klinkenberg is
contributing editor of The telegraphJournal. He can be reached at 645326 or