Taken from the newsletter Portrait de baleines, July 31, 2014
This stranger to the Estuary was observed on July 15 in the company of Siam, another male, during the telemetric monitoring conducted by the GREMM-DFO team.
The MICS team has known this male well since 1983, having identified him during 23 summer seasons in the northern (Mingan region) and southern (Gaspé Peninsula) parts of the Gulf, but never in the Blanc-Sablon sector. They named him Whip after the mark on his left fluke. This year (the 24th season he was identified), Whip was seen by the MICS team on July 2 off of Gaspé.
Pairs of male humpback whales are rare; they are usually observed when there is a female in the group. Moreover, MICS indicates that Whip was very often accompanied by various females.
Whip is believed to have suffered an entanglement in fishing gear in 2013. According to MICS, he was photo-ID’s on July 14, and the crew of a Gaspé-based whale-watching boat photographed him on September 30. In the photos from September, fresh, distinctive marks are visible: the imprint of a rope that probably got caught around the end of the peduncle at the base of the two flukes of the caudal fin. Whip is thus thought to have freed himself from this incidental catch that occurred in summer of 2013, as no such incident had been reported to the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network (QMMERN). According to the protocol adopted by MICS to document the marks caused by incidental catches, members of their team take photos of the peduncle when humpbacks dive and raise their tail, in addition to identification photos.
Let us recall Tryphon, a well known sperm whale in the Estuary who perished in 2009 following entanglement in the ropes and buoys of a crab trap, despite close monitoring by the intervention teams and the attempts made to free him. As for the fin whale Capitaine Crochet, victim of a similar incident in 2013 who had very little chance of survival; this Estuary regular has not been seen again since.
Fishing gear bycatch is a threat to cetaceans. To report such an incident, dial the toll-free number 1877-7baleine (1877-722-5346); Marine Mammal Emergencies is reachable 24/7.