Réseau québécois d'urgence pour les mammifères marins

Réseau québécois d'urgence pour les mammifères marins

June 17, 2009 16:11 ET

Tryphon: the Misfortunes of a Sperm Whale

TADOUSSAC, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - June 17, 2009) - The sperm whale named Tryphon made headlines June 10. The previous evening, tour operators from Sept-Iles informed the Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network (1-877-722-5346) that a sperm whale had become entangled in crab-fishing lines. A rescue team made up of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) officers and specialists from the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) rapidly made their way on site to validate the situation. With darkness looming, they had to postpone the rescue until the following morning at sunrise. In the meantime, extensive consultations led to a more detailed plan and the preparation of safety measures; a sperm whale is a very powerful animal with a propensity for aggressiveness if threatened.

By morning, a fisherman had managed to lighten Tryphon's load by 13 crab pots. The rescue team took over and, after several hours of work, Tryphon headed further offshore, apparently swimming vigorously. Unfortunately he was still trailing some lines. A call was then sent out to the entire St. Lawrence to be on the lookout for this animal.

On the morning of June 15, shore dwellers in Les Bergeronnes - a village situated some 400 km upstream from Sept-Iles - reported a sperm whale in their area. A team from the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM) was promptly dispatched to confirm that it was in fact Tryphon; he still had some lines attached to his head and dorsal fin. GREMM and Marine Park representatives were able to evaluate the animal's status during the day. The MICS team came from Mingan to attempt a disentanglement intervention the next morning at dawn. Regrettably, nomadic by nature, Tryphon had left the area and was not re-sighted despite increased vigilance by researchers, Canadian Coast Guard officers, pilots, ferry workers and representatives from the whale-watching industry. Consequently, if you see a sperm whale, please contact the Emergency Response Network and remain at a safe distance. Sperm whales have slanted blows, a submarine-like appearance, dark, wrinkled skin and large, triangular tails that rise high above the waves as they dive deep. They often blow 30 to 40 times in a row prior to diving for a period of 45 minutes. Tryphon can be identified by indentations on the trailing edge of his tail flukes. GREMM has been photographing this whale in the St. Lawrence since 1991.

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