Herd history


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Saint Lawrence belugas

Lesions and contaminants


Abdomen de béluga - Blessure due à une hélice de petite embarcation IDL-05-95, an adult female beluga recovered at St-Ulric de Matane (July 1, 1995) showed a C-shaped laceration, 50-cm long, whose borders are covered with fibrin, which involves the full thickness of the abdominal wall, thus completely opening the abdominal cavity to sea water. The shape is typical of a wound caused by the moving propeller of a small motor boat. (The propeller of a ship would have cut the whole carcass in pieces).

Factors other than pollution implicate human activity as causes of mortality in Saint Lawrence beluga. For instance, two adult females (DL-05-95 (Picture) and DL-03-96) died of wounds caused by the propeller of a small boat. A third adult female (DL-06-97) was found with renal lacerations caused most likely by a collision with a small motor boat.
There is a high probability that boats engaged in whale watching are responsible for these deaths although there are no direct proof. These boats are more numerous in that region and they maneuver close to the whales many times a day up to six months a year. Thus most likely, whale watching boats, not cruising boats, are responsible for these deaths.

Like most cetaceans, beluga whales are long-lived (30 to 35 years), and like most mammals with a long life span, female beluga can have only a small number of newborn over their reproductive life (8 to 9 calves). The loss of an adult female is the most severe that a mammal population with a low fertility rate may endure.


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