Third Young Beluga Found Stranded this Season

In the late morning hours of July 31, Marine Mammal Emergencies received a call about a newborn beluga found alive on a beach in Métis-sur-Mer. Véronique Lesage, research scientist at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), went to the scene to administer first aid to the animal. A rescue attempt – the second of the season – was then performed. The animal was taken to Rivière-du-Loup, where it was transferred to the GREMM research vessel. With a team from Parks Canada, the researchers located a group of female and young belugas in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park near Cap de la Tête-au-Chien, where they released the newborn into the water. It quickly joined the group. Scientists have not seen it since then.

Since the beginning of the season, this is the third young beluga found beached and the second rescue attempt. A total of five beluga carcasses have been found this season. Two female belugas, whose carcasses were examined by veterinarian Stéphane Lair, had given birth shortly before their death. On Friday, July 29, researchers offshore also observed a female carrying her dead calf. Since 2010, scientists have noted an unprecedented increase in mortality in pregnant females and newborns. This spike in mortality is still unexplained. The year 2012 was particularly alarming, with 16 newborn deaths recorded. Between 2013 and 2015, four to six newborn deaths were recorded per year. The year 2016 is off to a particularly bad start.

To learn more:

St. Lawrence beluga

St. Lawrence Belugas Declining

Leave It or Learn

Rescue Attempt of a Young Beluga Stranded Alive

Marine Mammal Emergencies - 1/8/2016

Béatrice Riché

Béatrice Riché has served as editor for the GREMM in 2016. She holds an MSc in environmental science and has spent several years working abroad in the fields of resource conservation, species at risk and climate change. Back on the shores of the St. Lawrence, which she keeps watch over every day, Béatrice writes columns on whales, drawing inspiration from events taking place here and afar.

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