VICTORIA -- An endangered North Pacific Right Whale was spotted in the waters off Haida Gwaii for only the fourth time in roughly 70 years, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

The federal government's online profile of the species says fewer than 50 North Pacific Right Whales are expected to live off the coast of Canada, in the southeastern portion of the Bering Sea – and overall, fewer than 250 adult whales of the species are expected to be alive today.

Researchers Jared Towers and James Pilkington recorded the whale off the west coast of Haida Gwaii on Tuesday, according to a social media post from Towers.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it was only the fourth sighting of the rare whale in Canadian waters since 1951. Three of those sightings took place relatively recently, since 2013.

Towers says the images, videos and samples that were taken this week will help determine if the same whale has been seen in Alaska or Russia before, what type of copepods it was recently feeding on, what sex the whale is, and if it is pregnant.

"It’s been over a century since most of this whale’s ancestors were all harpooned, but Right Whales in the North Pacific are still near the brink of extinction," wrote Towers.

The federal government says that Right Whales in the North Atlantic "are at particular risk due to collisions from ships and entanglement in fishing gear, and the same is likely true of North Pacific Right Whales."

"The North Pacific Right Whale is the rarest species of large cetacean and may number fewer than 100 animals," says the Government of Canada.