The run continues for the St. Lawrence beluga

La cavale se poursuit pour un béluga du Saint-Laurent

Photo: Levon Drover
The beluga whale, nicknamed “Népi” continues its run very far from its normal range.

After surviving against all odds in a rescue operation to be a risky and unprecedented, a beluga of the St. Lawrence river continues its run very far from its normal range. It just has to be overview in the area of Summerside, Île-du-Prince-Édouard.

The beluga whale in question, nicknamed ” Népi “, had first left the estuary of the St. Lawrence river to get to New Brunswick before heading up the course of the river Népisiguit, near Bathurst.

It is here that an entire team — supported by experts from the u.s. and canada — has been deployed for the capture in June 2017, after several days spent in fresh water. The animal was then transported to the nearest airport, to be placed aboard a plane chartered for the occasion.

Under the supervision of veterinarians, it has been transported up to Rivière-du-Loup, before to be placed in a truck to reach the port of Cacouna. This is where the animal has been moved on board a boat of the Group for research and education on marine mammals (GREMM), which was released the same day.

At this time, significant doubts remained on the ability to survive, given his poor state of health. However, it has recovered its force, while taking over the wide, this time in the company of other beluga of the St. Lawrence river. Both have been identified in July 2018, after having been photographed and biopsied in the area of Ingonish, in the eastern portion of Cape Breton.

Trip in the Maritimes

The cetacean had not been seen since, until that of students in scuba diving professional see this young beluga whale about three years, last December 7, in the port of Summerside. By analyzing the available images, the GREMM comes to the conclusion that it is Népi.

“This is good news to see it in a good state of flesh. However, it is disturbing to find it still in the Maritimes, ” says Robert Michaud, scientific director of GREMM, and the coordinator of the operation for the relocation of the beluga whale in 2017.

“What is most disturbing is to see it go to the encounter of humans,” he says. Most cases of beluga whales observed outside of their sector, have led to accidental deaths. “Belugas are social animals. When they are alone, they seek the company of other species, but sometimes of boats and humans. And this close relationship is too often fatal “, he said, calling the future observers to keep their distance.

According to the marine mammal Regulations of the fisheries Act of Canada, it is forbidden to swim voluntarily with the marine mammals and a distance of 100 metres must be kept between the boats and the animals.

Threatened species

Népi is not the first beluga to leave the estuary of the St. Lawrence river. In 2015, a trio even traveled to New Jersey. Whether it’s the Sea or the american east coast, these regions are located very far from the natural habitat of the St. Lawrence beluga whales, which spend the summer in the estuary, but also the Saguenay river.

In the winter, the researchers believe that it is probable that they are further downstream, toward the gulf, but it is not known where these animals are “residents” of St. Lawrence spend precisely the winter season.

The species is considered ” endangered “. There would be less of 880 individuals in the Saint Lawrence river, despite the fact that the species is officially protected since 1979.

After the intensive hunting that has decimated the species for decades, these cetaceans, which are emblematic of the Saint Lawrence river are now victims of the disturbances caused by navigation, whether commercial or linked to the pleasure craft.

These gregarious animals, for which the communication between individuals is essential, are also affected by the noise pollution of their habitat and suffer the impacts of the contamination of the waters of the estuary.

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