In search of the causes of the death of the whale

A team of veterinarians performs this Wednesday the post-mortem of the humpback whale that has attracted curiosity and emotion for a week in the Montreal area. The first observations seem to suggest a “sudden death” of the animal, which could be due to a collision caused by a ship.

The whale, a young female of 10.2 metres, for a weight of 17 tons, has been found dead and adrift Tuesday morning. She was transported to Sainte-Anne-de-Sorel in the evening on Tuesday, where she was greeted by a crowd of the curious. It is also there that is being conducted this Wednesday, the necropsy (autopsy) to a cetacean.

If it is not possible to determine the causes of death before having completed the necropsy and analysis of the evidence on the body, the first observations of the veterinary team led by Dr. Stéphane Lair seem to indicate the presence of hemorrhagic areas “, which could be due to a collision, possibly caused by a ship.

The young whale, who always seemed very dynamic Saturday evening and was swimming Sunday in the heart of the voie maritime du Saint-Laurent, seems to have undergone a ” sudden death “, or ” fast “, explains the Need to the Dr’s Lair. What’s more, this cetacean the age of two or three years had a ” good body condition “, states the specialist necropsies of cetaceans.

In the seaway

In the last few days, as the Port of Montreal Transport Canada indicated that they had issued a “notice” to the navigation, due to the presence of the whale in the Montreal area. The animal, which had been seen alive on Sunday late afternoon at the eastern tip of the island of Montreal, however, is found in spite of him in the area of navigation of the many cargo ships, bulk carriers, container ships and tankers that go down or up the river Saint-Laurent.

Before being able to comment formally on the precise causes or likely the death of this humpback whale, the team of Stéphane Lair must conduct different analyses on the remains of a cetacean. It is possible that information will be available as soon as Wednesday, although the final report will not be completed until a month or two.

This post-mortem examination should not help determine why the whale has left its natural habitat, located 400 kilometers from Montreal, to trace the course of the river St. Lawrence. “It is likely to remain a mystery, but it is known that the young whales have a tendency to explore their environment, which can lead to bad decisions,” says Stéphane Lair.

It also reminds us that the population of humpback whales is increasing, since the judgment of the commercial hunt that nearly exterminated the species. “It is a story of success, but the more calves, the more likely it is that one of them take bad decisions. “

According to the estimate of the population available from the federal government, the population of humpback whales of the Western North Atlantic, to which belonged the whale in Montreal), is estimated at 4,000 individuals. It is classified ” not at risk “.

Whale popular

Even if it does not belong to a threatened population, this young whale, however, has aroused a great curiosity and many questions in the last few days. During one week, hundreds of people are in a hurry every day, at the wharf of the Clock, or on the island of Sainte-Hélène and île Notre-Dame, in order to observe this whale visible very close to the shore. The animal grew, moreover, the behaviour spectacular, including dozens of jumps out of the water. And many wondered if she would find one day the way to its summer habitat natural.

Each year, cetaceans are killed in the estuary and gulf of St. Lawrence, mainly due to entanglement in fishing gear, or because they are struck by commercial vessels. Almost all of these cases are never publicized, if ever, reported. They relate to yet sometimes of endangered species, such as the blue whale, including the adult population is estimated at only 250 individuals.

Since 2017, not less than 20 right whales have also been found dead in the gulf of St. Lawrence. Some had been hit by vessels, while others died as a result of an entanglement in fishing gear. These mortality records have forced the federal government to put in place protection measures for this species, which does not account for more than 400 individuals. Without these protection measures, the canadian fishermen would be denied access to the lucrative u.s. market.

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