Minke whale is still in Montreal, risking its life

A minke whale spotted in Montreal last weekend was still in Montreal waters on Tuesday, putting its life at risk. No operation will be conducted to evacuate it from the area, according to the Marine Mammal Emergency Network of Quebec.

Posted at 12:21 PM

Lila Dussault

Lila Dussault

There was a glimmer of hope for volunteers from the Marine Mammal Emergency Network in Quebec on Tuesday morning, when the minke whale had been absent from the surface for several hours. We had hoped that he had finally decided to head back to cover the 450 kilometers separating him from his natural habitat, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

When the curved back of cetaceans—generally a source of astonishment—appeared near Ile Saint Helens at the end of the morning, disappointment was on the agenda.

We don’t think this animal has a good prognosis [de survie]. It is not good to be there, to remain there.

Robert Michaud, Scientific Director of the Research and Education Group on Marine Mammals (GREMM)

Minke whales generally live in salt water, in the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River or the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, or eventually in Saguenay. Michoud explains that salinity has an effect on the type of fish the whales eat, protecting them from algal blooms.

According to Michaud, a minke whale can become increasingly brown as a colony of algae settles on its back, as was the case with the humpback whale that came to Montreal. in 2020. “Whales are not accustomed to algae,” he points out. When this happens, lesions and openings can develop through which infection can sneak in. »

collision risk

Another major danger to minke whale: collision with a ship in a river more crowded than its natural habitat. A shipping notice has already been issued to inform pilots of the presence of cetaceans. More than 2,000 ships pass through the Port of Montreal — the largest in eastern Canada — annually, according to port data.

Collisions between ships and whales are far from rare in Quebec. At the point being in the Gulf of St. Lawrence areas, the speed of ships is limited to 10 knots. The measure is specifically aimed at protecting the North Atlantic right whale, of which there are a total of 336 specimens remaining in the world, according to the Canadian government.

Ethical framework for intervention

Despite all these risks, the Marine Mammal Emergency Network of Quebec has decided that it will not step in to try and help the minke whale return. “In this case, it’s a natural phenomenon that we’re dealing with, and there’s no public safety issue, and the species isn’t in danger either,” explains Robert Michaud.

Photo by Patrick Sunfaun Press

“There is currently no known technology or experience in the world to move or eject a marine animal of this size over 400 kilometres,” the Marine Mammal Research and Education Group says on its website.

These are the three criteria on which the network bases its decision to proceed with a more aggressive intervention.

“There is currently no known technology or experience in the world to move or expel a marine animal of this size over 400 km,” the Marine Mammal Research and Education Group outlines on its website. The animal must choose to return on its own.”

Robert Michaud also notes that the network carries out up to 700 emergency interventions for vulnerable marine species in Quebec each year. Two more are now in progress. “Animals that die, there are every day, it is normal, sometimes difficult to accept for us humans, especially city dwellers,” admits the specialist.

Not all experts agree on this question. “There, we have an animal that has moved away from its habitat and we have an extraordinary opportunity to follow it,” says Daniel Martineau, a retired professor from the University of Montreal’s School of Veterinary Medicine who specializes in marine mammals. In his opinion, a signal transmitter should be installed on the minke whale to follow its movements, help prevent charging and, if necessary, find its carcass more quickly. He adds: “We have a unique opportunity to learn more, and possibly protect the animal.”

with the Canadian press

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  • 1901
    A year when minke whales ventured into Montreal. Then there was no report for 120 years.

    Source: The Canadian Press

    Another year report of a minke whale in the upper Quebec River. The whale was in Levi’s.

    Source: Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM)

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