Royal Ontario Museum wants to retrieve blue whale skeletons

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A team from the Royal Ontario Museum will be travelling to western Newfoundland to retrieve the skeletons and tissue samples from the beached blue whales in Rocky Harbour and Trout River.

The blue whales that have washed up on the shores of western Newfoundland will be retrieved by professionals from the Royal Ontario Museum.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans issued a press release Thursday, announcing that a deal has been struck between DFO and the Royal Ontario Museum to facilitate the recovery of up to two North Atlantic blue whale skeletons.

There were previous reports of three blue whale carcasses having washed ashore, but the two blue whales referenced in the press release were those on the beaches of the towns of Rocky Harbour and Trout River that have been drawing international attention in the last week.

According to the release, a team from the Royal Ontario Museum will be travelling to western Newfoundland to preserve the skeletons and tissue samples for scientific research. The skeletons will be accessible to the global research community, the release said.

It makes no mention of how the huge amount of rotting flesh still attached to those skeletons will be handled.

Both blue whales — one of the largest animals to have ever lived on Earth — are estimated to weigh in the vicinity of 80 tonnes. They are both believed to be among at least nine blue whales that died off the southwest coast of the island earlier in April.

 It is unprecedented to have this number of blue whales perish at once in a single area. The deaths were likely as a result of severe ice conditions this winter in the North Atlantic, combined with the unique topography of Newfoundland’s southwest coast.

There are fewer than 250 mature blue whales in the Northwest Atlantic population.

“While the loss is truly unfortunate, our Government is pleased that we are able to work with the Royal Ontario Museum to preserve these rare whale skeletons for future generations and to help Canadians benefit in a meaningful way through this invaluable contribution to Canadian science,” said DFO Minister Gail Shea in the press release.

The museum said the chance to preserve, study and examine up to two skeletons is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and of great scientific and educational value for Canadians.

“This loss, representing up to five per cent of this endangered species is extremely unfortunate,” said Dr. Mark D. Engstrom, the Royal Ontario Museum’s deputy director of collections and research, in the same prepared release. “This is an important opportunity to further our understanding of these magnificent animals and provide an invaluable resource for Canadian science and education now and in the future.”able resource for Canadian science and education now and in the future.”

Organizations: Royal Ontario Museum, Royal Ontario Museum.The Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Rocky Harbour, Trout River April.It North Atlantic

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