As summer is winding down in the coastal areas of the St. Lawrence, one might think that the telephone at Marine Mammal Emergencies is ringing less, but it isn’t. Here is an account of the cases handled in the past few weeks.

Minke whale carcasses

On September 2, the crew of a merchant ship spots a carcass drifting off the coast of Sept-Îles. Photos confirm the description provided by the witness: it is a minke whale. Already in an advanced state of decomposition, the animal appears to have been dead for quite a while. We see that green ropes are looped around the top of the whale’s rostrum, suggesting that the whale had gotten itself entangled in fishing gear.

Minke whale stranded in Petit-Matane, September 3, 2015 © Louis Ruelland

Numerous residents of Petit-Matane reported a beached minke carcass on September 3. It was an adult female and the freshness of the carcass was remarkable. Two days after the first report, some residents thought they saw a stranded beluga on the Petit-Matane tidal flats. After validation with the help of volunteers, it was confirmed that it was the same minke whale, which had been taken away by the tides and later washed ashore a little farther away.

Seal species

Bearded seal © BisesArts.com

The diversity of seal species in the St. Lawrence is high and in the past few days the call centre team can testify to that. A bearded seal has been present in the Saguenay Fjord since the end of August. It seems to have adopted a pontoon in the L’Anse-de-Roche marina, to which it has been returning almost daily. The regulars of the area even nicknamed it “BB” in honour of Brigitte Bardot, the famous actress who came to the defence of pinnipeds.

In Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, a young hooded seal caused quite a stir on September 6 and 7. The young animal was on shore, and thus became a source of concern for those visiting for the Labour Day holiday. The animal was watered down several times and was also captured and moved by local residents who wanted to assist it. Thanks to the work of one volunteer and the 1-877-7baleine team, and in collaboration with the municipality, an awareness campaign was conducted. The message conveyed was the following: if you encounter a seal on shore, the best way to help it is to leave it alone. It is common to see a seal resting on shore. It does not need help. These animals can become aggressive and bite, and in order to come to the aid of marine mammals, one must have a permit issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Gray seal © Sam DeChamplain

Gray and harbour seal carcasses have also been the focus of study recently; each reported carcass is measured, photographed and documented by volunteers of Marine Mammals Emergencies. If it becomes a nuisance for citizens, it can be recovered by the Quebec Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MDDELCC), a Network contributor.

Small whales

Dead harbour porpoises were found in Bic National Park, on the shores of Sainte-Félicité and off Tadoussac in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. When these carcasses are accessible and fresh enough, they are recovered and undergo necropsy by the Centre d’Éducation et de Recherche de Sept-îles (CERSI).

Beluga adrift © Tedd Greenwald

A beluga, probably a first-year animal, was seen floating off Kamouraska on September 1. The whale could not be recovered. Another young beluga was reported on the evening of September 9; the carcass had been seen four days earlier at Île aux Coudres. Further details are anticipated in order to have as much information as possible on the situation.

Marine Mammal Emergencies - 10/9/2015

Josiane Cabana

Josiane Cabana served as Director for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network call centre from 2011 to 2018. When she’s not responding to cases of dead or vulnerable marine mammals, she likes to take the time to educate local residents on the threats faced by these animals. Biologist by training, she has been involved with the GREMM for more than 15 years, and always with the same undying passion!

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