Herd history


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Saint Lawrence belugas

Lesions and contaminants


Other researchers have noted that beluga behavior is disturbed by boats and have also concluded that the number of whale watching boats is too high. The curiosity of beluga could expose them to wounds from propellers; Blane and Jaakson (1994) have reported that SLE beluga pass underneath small boats and frequently pause under boat propellers.

On June 8 1998, federal and provincial government agencies contributed to the creation of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park in the Saint Lawrence Estuary, a region that constitutes the major part of the SLE beluga habitat. In 1996, Parks Canada counted 42 commercial whale watching motor boats. In 1997, it counted 52 of these boats, a 24 % increase (approximately 93,600 hours of observation). According to Park Canada, the number of passengers increased 20 times in the last 15 years (from 20,000 to 421,378 from 1984 to 1998). It increased 5 times in the last 10 years (from 78,000) and increased 5 % from 1997 to 1998.

Currently, whale-watching operators are not subjected to any regulation with regard to boat maneuvers near wild whales within the Marine Park. There are no examination to assess the competence of whale watching operators to handle a motor boat near wild cetaceans, a task they perform several times a day, 5 to 6 months a year. (Operators are merely required to follow the safety regulations issued by Transport Canada). Guidelines are provided by Park Canada and boaters comply with them (or not) on a voluntary basis. There are no restrictions on the number of boats and of boat operators allowed to run a whale watching business.

Up to September 1999, three collisions between whales and boats had been reported by the public to the Marine Park authorities, excluding the Cousteau incident.




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