Monday, April 10, 2006

Endangered Species of Whale Killed by Freighter.

A Fin whale, or Finback as commonly called, was found dead, caught on the propellers of a Danish cargo ship, according to a report by the CBC (click title for link). It was discovered by crew members as they tried to anchor near Pointe Aux Trembles, the eastern edge of Montreal island. 20 metres long and 45 tonnes, this endangered species is a magnificent whale, often known as the "greyhound of the sea" for it's ability to suddenly accelerate up to 25 knots. The Fin is the second largest creature on the planet. As many as 30,000 a year were slaughtered by the whaling industry after first wiping out most Blue whales. About 40,000 are thought to remain in the northern hemisphere, a small fraction of their normal numbers. Finbacks are normally found in the Gulf of St Lawrence, as part of their northern migration.

Groups ranging in numbers from 12-20 are popular viewing on the St. Lawrence River, off of Tadoussac, an easy drive from Montreal. Several dozen of these whales have been identified and named by scientists studying them from Tadoussac. This Fin has not as yet been examined, so it is not known if it is a previously known member of the species. Using molecular biology, it is possible to examine any possible relationship.

There are 13 species of whales that inhabit the St. Lawrence estuary. There is much concern over Hydro-Quebec's plans to drill for oil and gas in the area. The government of Quebec refuses to hold public hearings on anything but the seismic portion of the drilling.

Montreal Sailing recommends "Whales-online" as an excellent resource for further reading about whales, the St. Lawrence estuary, environmental concerns, and how the public can be supportive.