Time running out for beluga whale stranded in river Seine, say marine groups

By Paul Myers - RFI
Europe Time running out for beluga whale stranded in river Seine, say marine groups
AUG 7, 2022 LISTEN

A team of vets and marine experts on Sunday conceded they were running out of options in the fight to save a malnourished beluga whale that has swum up the river Seine.

The whale was first spotted on Tuesday in the river that runs through Paris to the English Channel.

Since Friday it has been in warm waters between two locks some 70 kilometres north of Paris.

"It has to be moved in the coming 24-48 hours, these conditions are not good for it," said Lamya Essemlali, the head of marine conservation group Sea Shepherd France.

"We are all doubtful about its own ability to return to the sea," she added. "Even if we 'drove' it with a boat, that would be extremely dangerous, if not impossible."

However, she said the whale would not be destroyed.

"It still has energy ... turns its head, reacts to stimuli," she added.

Although rescuers have tried feeding it frozen herring and then live trout, the animal has refused food.

"His lack of appetite is surely a symptom of something else ... an illness. He is malnourished and this dates back weeks, if not months. He was no longer eating at sea," Essemlali said.

Small spots that were reported on its pale skin on Saturday were likely due to the fresh water, Sea Shepherd said.

Another option under consideration would be to take it out of the water, give it vitamins, check the cause of the illness and ship it out to sea to feed.

Rare sighting
Belugas are normally found only in cold Arctic waters, and while they migrate south in the autumn to feed as ice forms, they rarely venture so far.

According to France's Pelagis Observatory, which specialises in sea mammals, the nearest beluga population is off the Svalbard archipelago, north of Norway, 3,000 kilometres from the Seine.

It is only the second recorded sighting of a beluga in a French river since 1948, when a fisherman in the estuary of the Loire river found one in his nets.

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