NORWAY - A necropsy began here this morning on one of the six right whales found floating near Isle-de-la-Madeleine earlier this month.

The whale was towed to the site by a Canadian Coast Guard ship yesterday and moved close to shore by a fisheries patrol vessel. A hi-mack was used to drag the whale onto the shore.

Dr. Pierre Yves Daoust with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at UPEI’s Atlantic Veterinary College is leading the necropsy team. He said they’re anxious to try and learn what caused the deaths of the whales, an endangered species. He said one or two more whales may also be moved to the site for examination.

“I call this a mass mortality and therefore the more animals we can look at the more likelihood we will find a common cause of death.”

Experts from across Canada and the US are assembled at the end of the Phee Shore Road where the necropsy is being performed. The area around the whale has been cordoned off to restrict public access.

Daoust said the biggest challenge in conducting the necropsy will be getting through the first layer of the carcass because it’s so heavy. The next challenge will be dealing with the massive head, which he described as “one big mass of bone.”

“That’s why heavy equipment is essential. You want to go delicately because you don’t want to cause fractures.”

Daoust said because the ocean is so important to humanity, it’s imperative they try to find what happened in cases of mass mortalities. He said the right whales are “umbrella species” that can show us how well our oceans are doing and, if necessary, to make changes to protect them.

It will take a few days to complete the necropsy (or nercopsies), and rain is forecast for Friday and again for Canada Day on Saturday. Daoust said even if the weather is not pleasant the work will go ahead.

“Everybody has invested a lot into this and I would like to think that a bit of rain will not stop us,” he said. “We need to do this work.”

The whale or whales will be buried on the site when the necropsies are complete.

While experts are interested in studying the whale, many others have been dropping by just to take a look.

Shealene Gaudet lives in Norway said she walked down to the shore this morning.

“Unreal,” she said, as she sized up the huge mammal from behind the perimeter tape.

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