Taken from the newsletter Portrait de baleines, July 21, 2011
The minke whale Patapouf, a regular of the Estuary known to ORES researchers since 1999, was spotted this year between Buoys K54 and K55 and the Prince Shoal Lighthouse. Although it was not easily recognizable prior to 2005, the fresh injuries that it showed when it arrived that season have facilitated identification ever since. According to ORES, its wounds (which have since scarred) are believed to be the result of getting enmeshed in fishing gear.
Its counterparts Three Scars, Slash Eleven, Honeycomb, Glenfiddich, Funambule and Bushmills also show marks of entanglement. And even if Three Scars was saved from a serious entanglement in the heart of the Marine Park in 2004 (see Portrait de baleines, September 2, 2010), it seems that such incidents most commonly (always, according to ORES) occur on the minkes’ migratory route outside of the Estuary.
Unfortunately, once caught in fishing gear, most minke whales will perish, as their small size prevents them from bearing heavy loads for extended periods. We should further mention that two visitors to the Estuary who have perhaps had such a misfortune last summer have yet to be seen this season: Hibou, who was observed carrying rope around its head the last two seasons, and Little EL, which showed a deep scar… Let’s hope that ORES’ work will help to assess the impact of risks attributable to Man and to improve conservation measures for the minke whale.
Until 2005, Patapouf was only recognizable by the plump dorsal fin that earned it its name, and later by large, clear-cut notches at the rear base of its dorsal fin and by a scar that, though slightly faded, remains visible on the left side of its peduncle.