SHARE
COPY LINK

ENVIRONMENT

‘Little hope’ of saving beluga whale stranded in France’s River Seine

Hopes of saving a malnourished beluga whale that has swum up the Seine river were receding on Sunday, but rescuers said they have ruled out "euthanasia" for now.

A beluga whale swims between two locks on the Seine river, in Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne, northwestern France
A beluga whale swims between two locks on the Seine river, in Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne, northwestern France, on August 6, 2022. Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP

The whale was first spotted on Tuesday in the river that runs through Paris to the English Channel. Since Friday it has been between two locks some 70 kilometres (44 miles) north of the French capital.

But leaving it in the warm stagnant water between the lock gates is no longer an option.

“He has to be moved in the coming 24-48 hours, these conditions are not good for him,” Sea Shepherd France head Lamya Essemlali told AFP.

Specialists held out “little hope” for the visibly underweight whale, Essemlali said.

“We are all doubtful about its own ability to return to the sea,” she said.

A beluga whale swims between two locks on the Seine river, in Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne, northwestern France, on August 6, 2022. (Photo by Jean-François MONIER / AFP)

“Even if we ‘drove’ it with a boat, that would be extremely dangerous, if not impossible”.

However, “the euthanasia option has been ruled out for the moment, because at this stage it would be premature,” she said.

The whale still has “energy … turns its head, reacts to stimuli”, she said after a meeting of experts and French officials.

Although rescuers have tried feeding it frozen herring and then live trout, the animal was refusing the 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.

President of marine conservation NGO Sea Shepherd France Lamya Essemlali (2nd R) gathers with colleagues near the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne lock as they work with local authorities to rescue a beluga whale in the Seine river in Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne, northwestern France, on August 6, 2022. (Photo by Jean-François MONIER / AFP)

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.

An adult can reach up to four metres (13 feet) in length.

According to France’s Pelagis Observatory, specialised in sea mammals, the nearest beluga population is off the Svalbard archipelago, north of Norway, 3,000 kilometres (1,800 miles) 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.

The sighting comes just a few months after a killer whale — also known as an orca, but technically part of the dolphin family — became stranded in the Seine and was later found dead between Le Havre and Rouen in late May.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: ‘Lost’ Orca whale heading up France’s Seine river

An autopsy found the animal, more than four metres long, had likely suffered exhaustion after being unable to feed.

Officials said they had also discovered a bullet lodged in the base of its skull — though it was far from clear that the wound played a role in its death.

 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ENVIRONMENT

France opens up first offshore windfarm – but will more follow?

President Emmanuel Macron inaugurated France’s first offshore windfarm off the coast of Saint-Nazaire on Thursday as he seeks to accelerate renewable energy supply and improve energy security.

France opens up first offshore windfarm - but will more follow?

The 80 turbines will enter full service by the end of the year, and Macron has previously set a goal of about 50 offshore windfarms “providing up to 40 gigawatts” in service by 2050.

Following the belated inauguration of the country’s first offshore windfarm, another at Fécamp is due to start generating power in 2023. Sites in Saint-Brieuc, Fécamp and Courseulles-sur-Mer are set to enter service in 2024.

But France has a long way to go to meet the President’s target, and to catch up with its European neighbours. Before the Saint-Nazaire wind farm (‘parc éolien’ – en français), France had only one floating offshore wind farm off the coast of Le Croisic.

At Thursday’s inauguration event, Macron was to set out the “main lines” of a bill to accelerate France’s renewable energy programme, which will be presented to the Council of Ministers on Monday, September 26th.

READ ALSO France generates electricity from offshore wind farm for the first time

There is no doubt that renewable energy production in France is accelerating. On top of the 80 offshore turbines at Saint-Nazaire, just under 9,000 onshore turbines are currently producing electricity in France – eight years ago, around half that number of land-based turbines were operational. 

The first turbines in France were only installed in the 1990s – by which time countries like Germany and Denmark already had large-scale operations in place. 

More turbines would be in operation now in France, but for the lengthy planning process and appeals against projects, which have delayed construction for several years.

Hauts-de-France and Grand-Est, account for 50 percent of the wind-produced power in France. Île-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, and Corsica lag behind the other regions.

READ MORE: Energy shortages: What’s the problem with France’s nuclear industry?

In 2020, wind produced just eight percent of its electricity from wind, behind hydroelectric stations, while nuclear power generated nearly 70 percent of the country’s electricity.

Wind power accounted for 20 percent of electricity generation in Germany and Spain, while the UK was at 30 percent in 2020, Portugal produced 40 percent, and Denmark’s windfarms met 60 percent of the country’s electricity needs.

SHOW COMMENTS