UPDATE May 31st 2020
The whale is still in Montreal. It likely cannot go further because the current is too strong. The whale seems to be 2-3 years old and in good health, according to the Groupe de recherche et d’éducation sur les mammifères marins – GREMM. Humpback whale calves usually remain with their mothers until they reach at least 3 years-old. The reason behind the calf’s presence in Montreal is still unknown, but it could be a lost calf.
The little whale is showing some minor skin lesions likely cause by freshwater … But nothing serious yet. Let’s see what happens next…
I went to see it again this afternoon and it looks like the little whale is swimming downstream. Let’s hope it keeps going this way and goes back to the sea!
A strange visit from the sea …
Hey guys, Anaïs here, reporting from Montreal, Canada.
Montreal woke up to the exciting news
There is a humpback whale in Montreal! The lonely whale was first sighted in the St Lawrence estuary. It has been swimming up stream for a few days and swam through Quebec City and Trois Rivières. When I found out about this, I jumped out of my apartment with my camera in hand and went looking for it. After a couple hours, I finally got a tip from a journalist. The whale was swimming in front of the old port in Montreal. I ran as fast as I could, to catch a glimpse of it.
I spent 2 hours observing it from the old port decks. The whale has been stationary for the last couple hours. I will not lie, I am pretty worried about the future of this whale. This humpback whale should not be in Montreal.
A bit of background on the humpback whale
Humpback whales or Megaptera novaeangliae is a baleen whale and is one of the eight members of the rorquals family. You can easily distinguish a humpback whale from its super long flippers, which are about one-third the length of its body. The humpback whale is a cosmopolite species. It occupies a wide variety of habitats, from open oceans to continental shelves and from the coldest waters in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, to the tropics.
Humpback whales from the Northern Hemisphere undertake seasonal migrations from the Arctic, were they feed, to warmer waters to breed. Their migrations are among the longest of any mammal. They can reach almost 8,000 km!
Humpback whales were hunted to the point of near-extinction in the XIX and XX th centuries. By 1966, year of the international ban on whaling, only a few thousand humpback whales remained. They are slowly recovering but they still face many anthropogenic (human) threats today. You can check our post on the threats humpback whales face here.
What happened to the whale in Montreal?
The whale in Montreal is disoriented and/or sick. The reason behind its sudden visit to Montreal is unknown at the moment. People started speculating: reduced ship traffic and noise in the estuary would the cause of the whale’s presence in Montreal.
I personally think the whale is disoriented/lost. I did not get close enough to evaluate its body condition. If the whale is emaciated, it has likely been starving for weeks got tired and ended up in the river.
Nonetheless, humpback whales cannot survive in unsalted water (osmoregulation). If this whale does not leave the river soon, it will most likely die here. It could die from starvation or collision.
We will keep you updated on the situation.
Let us know what you think in the comments
I got interviewed by CTV about this whale and here is the short clip