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An Endangered Right Whale Has Finally Been Spotted in Canadian Waters

The first North Atlantic right whale of the year in Canada was spotted near eastern Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Scientists had expected calves and their mothers to be heading north toward Atlantic Canada by the end of February, but until this week, none had been seen, according to CBC.

This year was a sad one for the right whale, as at least 18 were found dead in Canada and the US.

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With an estimated 450 of these endangered whales left in the world, those deaths account for about 4% of the population.

Human activity is believed to be the primary cause of the deaths of these majestic creatures, but climate change could also be playing a role.

The number of whales spotted last summer in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, specifically, was surprising.

Jerry Conway, advisor with the Canadian Whale Institute and the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, told Global Citizen that it seemed as though their food supply (plankton) had become more plentiful in the Gulf than in the Bay of Fundy, for example. Some have linked this to climate change.

Read More: What’s Causing The Deaths of North Atlantic Right Whales in the Atlantic Ocean?

Regardless of where the whales are finding themselves, measures have been implemented to protect them from human behaviour.

In March, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced new regulations to protect the animals, including speed restrictions for ships, an earlier start and end to the snow crab fishing season in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, and closures in areas where whales are spotted.

Read More: North Atlantic Right Whales Could Be Extinct In 20 Years, Scientists Warn

These measures were meant to reduce the risk of whales becoming entangled in fishing gear or being struck by ships.

Global Citizen campaigns on some of the world’s biggest issues. The United Nations’ Global Goal 14 is conserving life below water. Take action to help conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.