Spate of right whale deaths has almost wiped out recent population gains

North Atlantic Right Whale

A leading whale expert says confirmation that a sixth North Atlantic right whale has died in Canadian waters this season is devastating for the critically endangered species.

Marine ecologist Mark Baumgartner says only seven right whale calves were born earlier this year off the southeast coast of the United States.

That means the population gains made this spring have been almost wiped out, and it's still early in the foraging season off Canada's east coast.

Baumgartner, who works at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, says Canadian officials are having a tough time keeping track of the whales because they appear to be spread out across the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The federal Fisheries Department says a surveillance flight spotted the sixth dead whale Thursday drifting off Quebec's Gaspe Peninsula.

Other dead whales have been found near Quebec's Anticosti Island and east of Iles-de-la-Madeleine, locations that are more than 250 kilometres apart.