For some reason, beluga whales keep hanging around the south coast of Newfoundland in harbours and just off the whale watching decks of coffee shops. This year, like most years, was a real pleaser for anyone who went whale watching. It’s no secret Newfoundland’s Witless Bay Marine Ecological Reserve is one of the best palaces to spot whales and other marine mammals that migrate to these rich ocean waters every year, but this whale watching season was extra special.
The harbours in Witless Bay and Hatchet Cove have been attracting beluga whales to their waters all summer long. It appears as though one of the beluga whales is approximately two years old and Newfoundland Department of Fisheries and Oceans suspects the beluga whale has become separated from its pod. This first beluga whale was spotted in Hatchet Cove by the owner of a local bed and breakfast on July 3rd and the second beluga whale was first seen in the waters of Witless Bay next to the Irish Loop Coffee House, just down the street from Whale House Guest House, on July 12. To date, both whales are still hanging around. It looks like the whales have become pretty attached to these communities, and the locals have become quite attached to the beluga whales.
Jack Lawson, a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans specializing in marine mammals said:
“These sightings are rare and always interesting to us”.Jack Lawson, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Lawson went on to explain that beluga whales are usually not seen on the south coast of Newfoundland.
It’s rare for an animal of this age and size to be displaced from their pod. Because beluga whales are social creatures, an event must have happened for the animal to become separated. Some speculate the young beluga whale’s mother got sick and died while others suspect the whale was struck by a boat and subsequently became disoriented and separated from its whale pod.
When Lawson and other Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists came to observe the beluga whale in hatchet cove earlier in the summer they obtained a small skin sample from the beluga whale in order to determine certain things about the beluga whale such as age and sex. The skin sample was sent away to a laboratory. The Department is still waiting for conclusive results to return from the lab.
By Canadian Law, all boats are to keep a 100 meter buffer zone between themselves and whales, but sometimes it’s not possible for mariners to know the whales are even there. “There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a whale in the open ocean,” said local paddleboarder Matt Power at Tors Cove Beach following a day on the water. “You have to remember you’re in their house, so you have to respect them and give them lots of space. Besides, they’re bigger than you and may not even notice that you are there”.
Have you had an up-close-and-personal encounter with a Newfoundland whale? Post about your experience in the comments below. We would love to hear all about it.