Minke whale spotted in the Montreal region, and its survival is threatened

MONTREAL – The head of the Marine Mammal Research Group confirms that for the second time in two years, a whale has been seen in the Montreal region. The minke whale’s survival could be seriously threatened if it stays too long in this sector.

Robert Michaud, of the Marine Mammal Emergency Network of Quebec, says a minke whale was first seen on Sunday in the Saint Lawrence River near Parc Jean Drabeau, about 450 kilometers from its natural habitat.

Minke whales can reach eight meters in length when they become adults. At the moment, there is no observation that would allow an assessment of the size of the whale found in the Le Moyne Channel. Robert Michaud notes, however, that it appears to be a small animal.

An expert is on his way to Montreal and will be able to make more detailed observations if the whale is still around on Tuesday, in particular to estimate its age.

The minke whale is currently swimming against the current in the Le Moyne Channel, located between Ile Saint Helens and Ile Notre Dame. This environment is hostile to him, explains Mr. Michaud.

These animals usually live in salt water. If they are exposed to fresh water for a long time, they may develop physiological problems. “The shorter he stays in the Montreal area, the better his chances of surviving,” the expert says.

Not many ships travel in the Le Moines Canal. The danger to the whale lies in the path it must take to Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine, “Where It Should End,” due to marine traffic.

These are the migratory animals that come to the Saguenay – St. Lawrence Marine Park in summer and spring, explains Mr. Michaud. They will feed until fall before returning to the Atlantic Ocean.

This indicates that the minke whale reached the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River only a few weeks ago.

Two whales in two years

This vision comes nearly two years after another whale, a humpback, spent several days in plain sight in Old Montreal Port.

This whale was found dead in June 2020, and the autopsy indicated that the 10-meter animal may have been hit by a boat.

This whale spent nearly two weeks in fresh water and its condition seriously deteriorated. Since the minke whale is much smaller in size, it does not have a “reserve like a humpback whale.”

“We hope to see it resume its downstream path more quickly,” Mr. Michoud said.

According to Robert Michaud, whales are two separate events. He says there is no data to suggest there are more stray whales these days. However, this is still a fairly rare phenomenon.

Since 2005, this is the 10th time a minke whale has been seen upriver from Quebec. The majority of the sightings were carcasses, but before we saw minke whales they weren’t seen again twice, so we assume they made their way downstream,” says Robert Michaud.

It’s not clear why either whale made the long journey through unhealthy freshwater habitats. He says the young animals may have explored for food or simply got lost.

“In all kinds of animals, including whales, there are individuals sometimes called wanderers, who make a series of mistakes in their navigation and end up in an unusual or inappropriate place,” explains Mr. Michaud.

A team has been deployed to monitor the minke whale, but Mr Michaud says there is not much they can do to help him other than warn boaters to be careful and hope he turns around and goes back downstream.

There are few options for expulsion of the animal in these situations. It is possible to use sound or barrier to repel marine mammals. “But the road between Montreal and its natural habitat is too long for us to believe that such an intervention can be covered with success,” says Mr. Michaud.

The Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Network will closely monitor the situation with Canadian Fisheries and Oceans. “Currently, we do not have valid scientific information that leads us to believe that we should do something other than leave the animal to its fate while ensuring a peaceful stay,” the expert says.

The boatmen are asked not to approach out of curiosity to see the animal. In the event that the whale returns to its natural habitat, shipping notifications for ships will be repeated.

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