In France, a battle to save weakened whale lost in the Seine

SAINT-PIERRE-LA-GARENNE, France — French environmentalists hoped Friday to make a herring catch to a worryingly thin Beluga whale that has strayed far from its Arctic habitat into the French Seine. They fear the ethereal white mammal is slowly starving in the waterway that flows through Paris and beyond.

“It is clear that we are in a race against time,” said Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, a marine conservation group. “It’s really extremely thin. His bones stick out. I don’t know if it’s too late already.”

Conservationists hoped to save the whale the fate of another, a killer whale, also known as a killer whale, which got lost and died in the Seine in May.

The Beluga was first spotted in the river earlier this week. Drone footage subsequently captured by the French fire service shows the whale wriggling gently in a swath of the river’s pale green waters between Paris and the Norman city of Rouen, many tens of miles inland from the sea.

“It is quite an impressive animal, appearing white (and) calm. It doesn’t seem stressed and comes up regularly,” fire officer Patrick Hérot, from the Eure region of Normandy, told French broadcaster TF1.

But Sea Shepherd France said the whale appeared in bad shape when it was spotted Friday. The group had a boat on the river, along with drones, trying to track it — no easy task with a mammal that can spend many minutes underwater.

Sea Shepherd France hoped to help the whale maintain its strength by feeding it a herring catch, Essemlali said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“We are very concerned,” she said. “The urgency is to feed it.”

In ocean waters, Beluga eat a variety of fish, as well as cuttlefish, cuttlefish, crabs, shrimp, and other animals. But the freshwater river cannot meet its nutritional needs.

“It can’t feed itself in the Seine,” Essemlali said.

Belugas are relatively small members of the whale family, growing to about 4 meters in length.

Rather than try to lure the weakened whale back down the river to the sea, Sea Shepherd France is urging to capture it so that it can then be repatriated by plane to the Arctic waters where it likely came from, Essemlali said. . She said DNA testing can determine whether it comes from waters around Norway, Canada or Russia.

“It’s logistically difficult, but it’s doable,” she said. “It will be a matter of wanting.”

“That will only be possible if we can feed it,” she added.

Authorities for the Eure region said the whale was believed to have wandered a 40-kilometer stretch of river between two sets of locks northwest of Paris. They also said the mammal looked alarmingly thin and that it swam away from boats in hopes of leading it toward the wide mouth of the river, between the seaports of Le Havre and Honfleur.

“It is able to spend long periods underwater and move over long distances,” the Eure authorities said in a statement.

Beluga’s pale skin and bulbous foreheads make them easily recognizable. They are also known for sociability and living, usually hunting and migrating together in pods.

According to the US government’s National Ocean Service, belugas are considered an endangered species and are commonly found in shallow Arctic coastal waters. It said that because Beluga’s make a series of clicking, whistling, squeaking, chirping and lowing underwater, they are also known as the ‘canaries of the sea’.


Leicester reported from Le Pecq, France.

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