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ENVIRONMENT

Beluga whale is now stationary in Seine

A malnourished beluga whale that swam up France's River Seine is no longer progressing but is still alive, the environmental group Sea Shepherd said on Monday.

Beluga whale is now stationary in Seine
A beluga whale swimming up France's Seine river, near a lock in Courcelles-sur-Seine, western France on August 5, 2022. (Photo by Jean-François MONIER / AFP)

Hopes are fading to save the animal, which was first spotted on Tuesday in the river that runs through Paris to the English Channel.

“It is alert but not eating,” Sea Shepherd France president Lamya Essemlali told AFP in a text message.

There was, however, “no worsening of its condition”, she said.

Since Friday, the whale has been between two locks some 70 kilometres north of the French capital.

Rescuers are considering last-ditch efforts to extract the animal from the Seine as the river’s warm water is harming its health.

One alternative would be to open the locks in the hope that the beluga will swim towards the English Channel, authorities said.

Opening the locks would harbour the risk of the whale moving further upriver towards Paris, which would be even more disastrous.

Several attempts to feed the whale have failed in the past days.

A three-person team from Marineland, Europe’s biggest sea animal theme park located in the southern French resort of Antibes, was expected to arrive on site later Monday.

“We’ve been following the operations at a distance from the start,” said Isabelle Brasseur, in charge of education, research and conservation at Marineland.

“We are slowly making progress,” she told AFP. “There’s not an ideal solution, we must weigh the pros and the cons” of each option to rescue the whale.

One of the experts on the team is a specialist for sea mammals, she said, adding they were bringing a stretcher and other equipment to try and move the animal.

On Saturday, veterinarians administered “vitamins and products to stimulate its appetite”, said a statement on Sunday by the police in Normandy’s Eure department, which is overseeing the rescue effort.

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 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 from the Seine.

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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.

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