TADOUSSAC, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Oct. 10, 2012) - A three- or four-metre long white or greyish beluga whale has been seen several times near the Old Port since September 28. No photos have been taken yet, but the Québec Marine Mammals Emergency Network feels that these observations are reliable.
Where did this beluga come from?
The closest population of belugas lives in the St. Lawrence Estuary. It is a small population, isolated from other northern populations, and is considered threatened. The beluga in Montréal could be a young animal from this group that has gone exploring, which is normal behaviour.
Why is it being monitored?
Belugas are social animals. If this beluga were at home, it would be in constant contact with other belugas. Now that it is on its own, it may try to interact with boats and humans. In the summer of 2012, for example, we saw two young belugas travelling around the Gaspé Peninsula, interacting with boats and swimmers in every small town. Luckily, they returned to their natural habitat and those abnormal behaviours ceased. Other isolated belugas, spotted off the Lower North Shore and around Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, have been less lucky; they were eventually wounded or killed by a boat.
Will it go back to where it came from?
The best thing that could happen to this beluga is for it to swim back down the Saint Lawrence, find a group of belugas and return to its normal habitat. There is a good chance that this will occur. To help ensure its return, we must avoid it becoming used to humans and, therefore, we should not interact with it.
How can you help?
If you see the beluga, immediately call the Marine Mammals Emergency Network at 1-877-722-5346. It is important to stay at least 400 m away, not to approach it, not to lure it close to humans, not to make noise or stimulate or attract its attention, and not to try to feed it. It is also advisable to avoid boating in the area it has been seen. By limiting its interaction with humans, we can maximize the chance that it will return to its natural habitat in good health.
The Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network is made up of a dozen private and governmental organizations. It has been mandated to organize, coordinate and implement measures to reduce the accidental death of marine mammals, help animals in trouble and gather information in cases of beached or drifting carcasses in waters bordering the province of Quebec.