On Wednesday, July 13, a humpback whale was spotted off the coast of Les Escoumins accompanied by a calf that had gotten itself entangled in fishing gear. This page was created to monitor this situation and will be updated with each new development to provide real-time information.

Tracking of Events

>> July 30, 2022

The two humpback whales, H729 and the entangled calf, were observed in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park by the Parks Canada team. However, weather conditions did not allow the use of the drone to verify if the calf was still entangled.

>>July 26, 2022

Last night at around 5:30 in the evening, the QMMERN received a report that H729 and her calf had been respotted in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park between Tadoussac and Grandes-Bergeronnes. These observations seem to suggest that the calf likely freed itself of the ropes. Around 6:30, a Parks Canada boat was dispatched to the site with a GREMM researcher on board to take stock of the situation.

However, weather conditions were not conducive to deploy a drone to determine whether the calf was still entangled. Today, marine park wardens have been patrolling the area all day in an attempt to relocate the individual.

At the time of this update (6 p.m.), the mother-calf pair has still not been spotted. It is therefore impossible to confirm whether or not the animal has indeed freed itself of its ropes, but the information that came in last night is encouraging.

>> July 15, 2022

Despite less-than-ideal weather conditions, the search for these individuals continued today. A Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) boat patrolled the north shore of the St. Lawrence Estuary between Baie-Comeau and Pointe-des-Monts. A DFO plane also passed over the region, from Gaspé to Rimouski and then from Tadoussac to Sept-Îles. Wardens from the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park continued their surveillance within the marine park sector and sailed down the river as far as Forestville. The Campobello Whale Rescue Team was stationed at the Matane marina all day, ready to intervene in the event the animals were reported. Lastly, the QMMERN continued to issue advisories to keep its partners abreast of the latest developments. Unfortunately, neither the entangled individual nor H729 was found. Due to uncooperative weather that will preclude any type of intervention for at least the next three days, searches have been suspended until further notice.

>> July 14, 2022

GREMM identified the entangled individual as the calf of H729. The identification was confirmed by the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS).

Three boats were on the water today to try to relocate these whales: two teams from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which set sail from the Côte-Nord region, and Mackie Greene’s crew from the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, which departed Rimouski. The search extended as far downriver as Sainte-Flavie. Parks Canada staff were also on the water patrolling the marine park sector. The QMMERN issued advisories to its partners on the water, in particular the MMON, the Société des traversiers du Québec, the ferry Bella Desgagnés and the Corporation des Pilotes du Bas-Saint-Laurent. Unfortunately, neither the entangled individual nor H729 was found again.

Searches will resume tomorrow. Once again, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada and the Campobello Whale Rescue Team will oversee the north shore, marine park and south shore areas, respectively. An aerial patrol will also be carried out by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. If the whale is found, a release attempt will be made.

H729 and her calf had not been documented this year prior to this report. The first and only confirmed sighting of the entangled individual was made yesterday. The first observation of H729 dates back to the summer of 2008, when she was documented by MICS in Jacques Cartier Strait (between the Mingan Archipelago and Anticosti Island). Since then, she has been observed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2018 and 2019 by MICS, and in the estuary in 2009, 2013 and 2021 by GREMM. Her visits to the St. Lawrence are quite sporadic: she is usually seen only once or twice during the course of the summer, and generally toward the end of the season. She has never been documented with a calf before, though her sex had previously been confirmed by MICS.

>> July 14, 2022, morning

Yesterday evening, marine park wardens stayed with the animal for as long as possible. When they left the area at 5:30, the whale was in the Rimouski sector, near Parc national du Bic.

According to GREMM’s observations, the entangled individual is a calf. The mother was identified by GREMM as H729. Four boats are currently on the water trying to pin down these whales. A first team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada left Forestville early this morning and is now at Parc national du Bic; a second crew left Baie-Sainte-Catherine, heading east; Parks Canada wardens are on the water patrolling the marine park area; and the Campobello Whale Rescue Team set out from Rimouski. The QMMERN issued advisories to people on the water through the MMON, the Société des traversiers du Québec, the ferry Bella Desgagnés, the Corporation des Pilotes du Bas-Saint-Laurent, and these PDB Express publications. If the whale is relocated and conditions permit, an attempt will be made to release it.

The entangled individual was swimming freely with an adult humpback. A yellow rope ran over its back, under its right pectoral fin, and into its mouth from the left side. No traps are visible and only a few metres of rope trail behind the animal. It is possible that the two individuals are no longer together.

>> July 13, 2022, afternoon

Le matin du 13 juillet, un rorqual à bosse empêtré a été signalé au RQUMM au large des Escoumins par un capitaine. D’après les observations du GREMM, il s’agirait d’un veau. L’animal nageait librement avec un rorqual à bosse adulte, et se trouvait dans le secteur de Rimouski, près du Parc national du Bic.

Des agents du parc marin du Saguenay–Saint-Laurent se sont déplacés sur place pour tenter de suivre l’animal. Une équipe du GREMM a aussi été sur le terrain pour documenter la situation et a d’ailleurs fait voler un drone dans le secteur pour obtenir de meilleures images de l’empêtrement. Un plan d’intervention a été préparé avec Pêches et Océans Canada et le Campobello Whale Rescue Team pour tenter de désempêtrer l’animal.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you cross paths with the animal, keep your distance. Do not attempt to approach the animal, at the risk of increasing its stress levels or causing other unfortunate impacts. Instead, record its position and promptly contact the QMMERN at 1-877-722-5346. If you have the chance, take photos and/or videos of the animal and forward them to Marine Mammal Emergencies as soon as possible.

To disentangle large cetaceans trapped in fishing gear, Quebec must turn to teams based in the Maritimes or Newfoundland. These complex and high-risk interventions require extensive experience and knowledge of whale behaviour as well as the ropes in which they are entangled.

Learn a little more about the situation in the article Entangled Whales: A Complex Situation by Whales Online.

Marine Mammal Emergencies - 26/7/2022

Andréanne Forest

Andréanne Forest is the editor-in-chief of Whales Online since may 2022. After studying in environment and biology, she turned to science communication with the goal of making science both accessible and fun. Andréanne wishes to highlight the process of acquiring knowledge while transmitting the desire to learn.

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