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There's Another Whale In Montreal — Everything You Need To Know

Why it's here is a mystery, but its presence could put it in danger, according to experts.

Senior Editor
Minke whale in the Saint Lawrence River near Montreal.

Minke whale in the Saint Lawrence River near Montreal.

There's a new whale in town, Montreal. Experts confirmed the mammal's arrival on May 9. It's the first documented sighting of a minke whale so far upriver, according to the Groupe de recherche et d'éducation sur les mammifères marins (GREMM), but the second time in two years a whale has made its way to the city.

In 2020, a female humpback whale met a tragic end after spending days near Montreal's Old Port and Parc Jean-Drapeau.

So why is the minke whale here and what are officials doing to protect it? The GREMM detailed the action experts are taking in a Monday afternoon news release.

First seen near Parc Jean-Drapeau

The whale was first seen in the La Moyne channel between Montreal's Îles Sainte-Hélène and Notre-Dame on March 8.

Alain Belso, who captured the first photos of the animal, told MTL Blog he immediately reported the sighting.

In the news release, the GREMM said volunteers from the Réseau Québécois d'Urgences pour les Mammifères Marins (RQUMM) went to the area on March 9 and saw the animal swimming upstream in the channel near the Passerelle du Cosmos bridge.

A second whale in two years

The GREMM said the minke whale's reason for travelling hundreds of kilometres away from its usual feeding grounds in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is a mystery. But the organization did list several possibilities, such as a navigation error, "exploratory behaviour," or the pursuit of prey.

The GREMM admitted there are "striking similarities" to the 2020 whale visit: the whales came to the city at roughly the same time of year and were both seen in the vicinity of Parc Jean-Drapeau.

"However, for the moment," the GREMM's Laure Marandet writes online, "there is no indication that there is a connection between these two events."

Is the minke whale in danger?

According to GREMM President and RQUMM Coordinator Robert Michaud, yes.

He told Narcity Québec that though it's not unusual for animals to stray from their regular grounds, their presence in Montreal jeopardizes their health.

There's also a danger of collision with a passing vessel. Officials suspected an impact with a ship may have been what killed the humpback whale in 2020.

This time, Michaud assured the RQUMM "immediately issued a notice to shipping to encourage pilots to be particularly vigilant about this presence."

For now, the GREMM said the minke appears to be healthy and swimming freely — but that there's little that can be done to make it return to safer waters downriver.

"There is currently no known technique or expertise in the world to move or repel a marine animal of this size over 400 kilometres," Marandet said. "The animal must choose to turn back on its own."

In the meantime, the RQUMM said its teams will try to "keep an eye on the animal while limiting disturbance, to limit its stress and put it in optimal conditions to choose to turn back."

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