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A humpback whale, a large cetacean accustomed to the waters of the North Shore, is approaching the island of Montreal, in southwestern Quebec: unheard of according to the Research and Education Group on Marine Mammals (GREMM).
“This is a first to our knowledge,” says Marie-Ève Muller, from GREMM, in an interview at TVANouvelles.ca.
The whale has been sporadically observed along its route in the St. Lawrence River since Tuesday.
The marine mammal, whose age remains unknown for the moment, was first seen several times near the Quebec bridges around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, said Muller.
No news of the whale Wednesday during the day, but in the evening, it offered a whole spectacle, at the height of Portneuf.
The whale made several jumps in the water, “a sign that it is in good health. He seemed to be in good shape and was swimming freely, ”explains the communications manager.
The specimen continued on its way to Trois-Rivières, where it was seen Thursday. The whale seemed to be eating well and having a “normal” breathing cycle.
It’s hard to 100% confirm that all of the sightings are about the same whale, but “we suspect it’s always the same,” says Muller.
Friday morning near Sorel, Simon Ferland, a yachtsman, saw the whale very closely and even managed to make a short video.
She seemed to be heading towards the island of Montreal.
Since the river traffic is dense near the metropolis, fishery officers patrol to ensure that the boats stay away. Commercial vessel pilots are also notified of the presence of the whale and must be vigilant.
Fresh water = danger?
Accustomed to salt water, his journey in fresh water should not harm him, at least in the short term. The whale could develop hydration problems, skin problems, but only after several months, assures Ms. Muller.
Impossible to know what explains such behaviour in a cetacean, or to venture so far from its natural habitat. Often young people will explore rivers, and then return home. Young belugas have already been seen in Florida, adds the specialist.
“We also have a narwhal in the St. Lawrence, usually they are in the Arctic!”, Exemplifies the spokesperson.
Nearly 500 individuals present in the river are known to organizations that monitor and protect marine mammals.
“We want her to go home. We can’t go to the North Shore, but she came to visit us. It’s really exceptional, ”concludes the spokesperson.
Appeal to the population
Although boaters must respect a minimum distance of 100 meters with whales on the water, the GREMM invites the population to take images of the specimen, in order to identify it as well as possible and monitor its state of health.
If you see the animal, the GREMM invites you to report the presence of the cetacean by telephone to the 24-hour emergency line: 1877 722 5346.
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