After two months of complete silence in the 1-877-7baleine call centre, a case is reported on Saturday, March 12: two residents of Havre-Aubert in the Magdalen Islands discover a half-submerged carcass on the beach. They initially believe it to be a harbour porpoise, but photos sent to the Marine Mammal Emergencies team reveal instead a larger cetacean with a prominent sickle-shaped rather than triangular dorsal fin. It’s probably a dolphin! The carcass is in an advanced state of decomposition and the skin colour pattern is impossible to see. The species therefore remains unidentified.
This past winter these witnesses enrolled in the Network of Marine Mammal Emergencies volunteers. After being contacted by the call centre, they returned to the beach where the cetacean had been to carefully document the incident: measurements, photos of the skull, teeth and other specific data help determine the species and perhaps also obtain clues about what might have caused the animal’s death. Unfortunately, the carcass had most likely been carried out by the tide, wind and waves.
The Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network has more than 130 volunteers for the year 2016. Moreover, the training period for these dedicated residents kicked off on Thursday, March 17. Nearly ten workshops will be given between now and the end of the month to train new as well as long-time volunteers. Planned events include the presentation of protocols to the teams, species identification workshop for living and dead marine mammals, anecdotes and remarkable cases handled by Network teams since the latter was created in 2004.