Scientists have identified the right whale found dead in New York waters Monday to be an older male named Snake Eyes, who had been spotted entangled in Canadian waters a month ago.

The extremely decomposed carcass was reported floating Monday about 4 miles south of Fire Island off Long Island, New York. It was towed to Jones Beach on Tuesday, where scientists conducted a post-mortem exam Wednesday.

It will take scientists several days to study the samples and test results to see if they can determine a cause of death, said a spokesman for the fisheries division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But NOAA noted Snake Eyes was last seen entangled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Aug. 6. A month earlier, he had been seen swimming in the same area, off the coast of the Iles-de-la-Madeleine, free of gear.

Severe weather and winds prevented whale rescue teams from reaching Snake Eyes in August, Canadian authorities said.

Snake Eyes, named for two white scars on his head that looked like eyes, measured 45 feet in length and was at least 40 years old, having first been sighted on Jeffreys Ledge in the western Gulf of Maine in 1979.

His carcass was buried after the necropsy was completed, officials said.

It is the first observed right whale death in U.S. waters this year. Eight others have been found dead in Canadian waters.

North Atlantic right whales are endangered. Scientists put their numbers at about 400. About 95 surviving whales are breeding females. The leading causes of whale deaths appear to be vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.

Federal regulators are preparing a regulation that would place restrictions on U.S. fishing industries, including the U.S. lobster industry, which is based in Maine, to reduce buoy lines to reduce the threat of entanglement.

Maine argues the pending restrictions are unfair because Maine gear has not been found at fault in any right whale serious injuries or deaths. Right whales are rarely spotted in the Gulf of Maine now that their food is scarce here, it notes.

Maine and its lobster industry, which is estimated to pump about $1.5 billion into the state economy, argue that Canadian ship strikes and entanglement is to blame for the spate of deaths that scientists say threatens the species with extinction.

 


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