A humpback whale near Trois-Rivières

Une baleine à bosse près de Trois-Rivières

Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
The humpback whale is a species that is normally present in the estuary of the St. Lawrence river.

Phenomenon without known precedent in the St. Lawrence : a humpback whale has redirected the course of the river and would be now in the area of Trois-Rivières. A situation that represents a risk to this cetacean, which is not found normally upstream of Tadoussac. The experts therefore requested the citizens to keep their distance.

The humpback whale was first seen in the area of Quebec city Tuesday, where she was photographed near the bridge Pierre-Laporte. Subsequently, it was reviewed Wednesday by the end of the day in the sector of Portneuf. She would have done then jumps out of the water, a behavior frequently observed for this species, which is also known to exhibit systematically the caudal fin by dipping.

Thursday morning, the animal was again overview, but even more upstream in the portion of river St. Lawrence, is in the area of Deschaillons-sur-Saint-Laurent and Saint-Pierre-les-Becquets.

“The animal doesn’t seem injured and it swims at a good speed, if you look at the distances covered in the last hours “, explains Marie-Eve Muller, communications manager at the Group for research and education on marine mammals (GREMM).

To an intervention ?

For the moment, the visual material that has been transmitted to the experts of the cetacean can not determine if it is an adult or a young animal. It is not possible to determine if the animal would be injured or emaciated, ” says Ms. Muller.

Une baleine à bosse près de Trois-Rivières

Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
If you observe the humpback whale, which swam now in the river, here’s what you might see.

The GREMM, but also Fisheries and Oceans Canada, then try to get more information, in order to determine if an “intervention” would be necessary or possible. “If you’re close to the river, keep your eyes open. Report without delay to the 1-877-722-5346 if you see the animal, or any other whale in a sector that is unusual. “

A general rule, recalls Marie-Eve Muller, ” the best solution is to let nature take its course “, hoping that the animal turns back and returns to the estuary. Anyway, it would be impossible to move this animal. The humpback whale, a species common in the estuary and gulf of St. Lawrence, may measure approximately 15 metres to the adult age, for a weight of 30 to 40 tons.

Ms. Muller also explained that it is important not to disturb this humpback whale. To do this, boaters must keep a minimum distance of 100 metres, as provided for in the federal regulations. The marine mammal Regulations of the federal government is also very clear : “it is forbidden to disturb a marine mammal “. This means that a boat should not approach the animal, nor stand in the way. It is also prohibited to swim or interact with a whale.

Unusual cases

If the presence of a humpback whale in the portion of river Saint-Laurent is a first, there are other cases where marine mammals have been sighted outside of their habitat. In 2012, a beluga whale had been sighted repeatedly in the area of Montreal, and especially in the Old Port. A minke whale, a species frequently observed in the estuary and the gulf, has already been found failed to Lévis.

Over the years, a number of reports of seals have also been reported in québec’s Network of emergency for the marine mammals regarding seals outside of their habitat. Among these, one account of young hooded seals, which are called “bluebacks” which were in the region of Montréal, including the Sainte-Hélène island. A situation unusual to say the least, since this species lives mainly in the waters around Newfoundland, even in the North Atlantic. In a case of the “blue back” reported in Longueuil, passers-by had tried to feed the animal with potato chips, hot dogs, and French fries. The seal finally had to be euthanized.

Finally, a narwhal was spotted several times in the estuary of the St. Lawrence river from 2016, swimming in the middle of groups of beluga whales. This toothed whale nicknamed the “unicorn of the seas” and whose size may be similar to that of the beluga whale lives in small groups in the waters of the canadian Arctic, or even the coast of Greenland.

Conversely, marine mammals in the St. Lawrence can also be found far from their natural habitat. It is sometimes the case of beluga whales. In June 2017, a beluga whale who had left the estuary had been found floating in a river of New Brunswick. In the framework of an operation without precedent, he had been brought back to Quebec by plane. But in 2018, it has been revised, this time in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

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