A humpback whale in a very bad posture in Montreal

It is the first humpback whale to be observed as far upstream on the St. Lawrence river and it has even multiplied the spectacular jumps close to the Vieux-Montréal on Saturday. But beyond the passion caused by the presence of this cetacean, the experts explain poorly the reasons that led him to leave his natural habitat, all the more that its predicament poses a certain risk to its survival.

“I saw it Saturday, from the wharf of the Clock, and the animal seemed to be in excellent shape. He has made several jumps, he stood in the current. I never thought I would see a humpback whale jumps in Montreal. But is that the jumps are an indication that it is in good shape, or rather that it is in a place that she does not understand ? We don’t know “, leave it alone Richard Sears, a pioneer of the research on cetaceans in Quebec and founder of the research Station of the Mingan islands.

Despite more than 40 years of studying whales on the St. Lawrence river, Sears inadequately explains the reasons that may push this humpback whale to leave its natural habitat and to reverse the flow of water on more than 400 kilometres. “It might just be an anomaly. Animals make mistakes, just like us. “Especially as, in this case, it is a young whale, probably aged two or three years. However, the young cetaceans may be more prone to exploration, which may lead them to find themselves in a bad position, as is the case here.

For now, the cetacea, however, is in good physical shape, despite a long journey against the current. The dissemination of pictures of his jumps taken Saturday, but also the novelty of the situation have attracted a few hundred curious Sunday, come and try their luck to see this whale. Several are left empty-handed, since the whale has swum all day and just east of the Jacques-Cartier bridge, hidden behind a train of containers stationed on the roads of the port of Montreal.

Une baleine à bosse en très mauvaise posture à Montréal

Photo: Valérian Mazataud The Duty

The people present talked about the same concerns on the plight of cetaceans : is that soft water is bad for a marine mammal that lives exclusively in salt water ? Is it that the whale can feed ? Is this an intervention is possible to save the humpback whale ?

It is known that the whales may very well swim in fresh water, but only ” short-term “. “It could develop skin problems, infections, or dehydration in the medium and long term, but this is not an immediate threat “, explains the spokesperson of the Group for research and education on marine mammals, Marie-Eve Muller.

In the immediate term, the main risk for this whale approximately 10 metres in length, for a weight of around 15 tonnes, remains the intense shipping traffic in the area. Saturday and Sunday, patrol boat motorcycle marine police Department of the City of Montreal have had to intervene several times to prevent boaters coming too close to the animal. The federal regulations are “forbidden” to approach within 100 yards of marine mammals, in order not to disturb them.

A team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada must also continue to monitor the situation, “at least for the next week,” said Sunday a spokesman for the ministry. The québec Network of emergency for marine mammals will collaborate in the monitoring of the case. And on the side of the Port of Montreal, it was pointed out that the situation is being monitored closely, ” to ensure that commercial navigation has no impact on the animal “.

Une baleine à bosse en très mauvaise posture à Montréal

Photo: Jacques Nadeau

Whales in danger ?

It remains that the life of this humpback whale, which is part of a species with the habit of very long migrations, could be under threat if it remains in the region of Montreal. “Can she find food ? It is possible, but we have no proof of this. If she has no food, she is at risk of decline. If she remains here, and that she amaigrit, it will become risky for her. But there is nothing to prevent turning of the edge and down with the current, towards Quebec city and the estuary, ” said Richard Sears.

In the opposite case, is it doomed ? “We’ll see. This is always a possibility, because it is far from its normal habitat. She could be stubborn until it dies, then decide to leave. But if it stays in the same place and that there was no food, I did not give much chance of survival. And we are not in his head. Maybe she is very stressed, she doesn’t know where to go and that she does not understand why she cannot find what she is looking for. It is possible, ” adds the expert of the great whales.

Une baleine à bosse en très mauvaise posture à Montréal

Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty

Other cases of humpback whales have rebounded rivers have been reported over the years, particularly on the american east coast. But most of the time, the animals are returned to themselves in a marine environment, usually because they were less far from their natural habitat as the humpback whale who swam on Sunday next to the amusement park La Ronde.

Experts who have analyzed the new case are so formal : it would be virtually impossible to attempt an operation to move or to scare the whale, so as to force it to take the path back to the estuary of the St. Lawrence river. “Methods of scaring or attraction do exist and are likely to operate for trips of short distances, but would be little applicable to help the whale to cross the 400 kilometers that separate it from its habitat,” stresses Marie-Eve Muller.

Richard Sears abounds in the same direction. “If we had intervened, we might as well make it panic and hurt him. So it is better to let nature take its course. It is unfortunate to say, but if this whale has chosen of its own volition to come here, and if she makes a mistake, it is as well. This is not because we want to see the animal die, but it is natural. “If it were to fail to live or to be injured, the authorities say, however, prepared to intervene.

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