befriends Fundy divers & fishermen
BY CHRIS MORRIS
He's no Moby Dick,
but a lonely baby beluga lost in the Bay of Fundy is garnering almost as much
attention as he searches for companionship in the waters off the New Brunswick
The small white whale, known as Poco, is raising
concerns among whale watchers because of his attempts to befriend commercial
divers and lobster fishermen working the bay, which is unfamiliar territory for
Cathy Kinsman of the Whale Stewardship Project,
a non-profit research and protection group, said Wednesday there are fears the
charming little whale could be harmed as he hangs around the aquaculture pens
and lobster boats, a ghostly figure who often startles people when he
"The beluga takes them totally by
surprise," Ms. Kinsman said. "One fellow told me he almost swallowed his
She said Poco follows divers around
once he finds them, peering into their face masks and rolling in the air
bubbles rising from their gear.
Ms. Kinsman said the
divers and fishermen are not looking for the whale or going out of their way to
pet him. Poco, she said, is seeking out their company.
"He's so curious and interested in everything and
anything going on," she said.
A beluga is an extremely
rare sight in the Bay of Fundy.
Ms. Kinsman said she
suspects Poco is from the beluga population in the St. Lawrence River, although
it is possible he swam down from Arctic waters.
whale, last seen just a couple of days ago, has been in the bay since
September. Ms. Kinsman said he is believed to be two or three years old and
measures two to three metres in length.
Stewardship Project specifically targets lost belugas, who are showing up with
increasing frequency in the waters off Atlantic Canada.
"There are more around than we anticipated when we
started the program," Ms. Kinsman said. "We have our hands full with these lone
beluga whales who are somehow becoming separated from their family groups and
straying into areas of Atlantic Canada where they are not normally found."
Ms. Kinsman said all of the whales tracked by the program
have eventually disappeared. She does not know what happens to them.
"Some have proven they can survive from year to year,"
she said. "Conceivably, this little guy could hang around for a while."
Ms. Kinsman said she realizes Poco's story is sad and she
expects it will strike a chord with people. She said belugas are intensely
social animals with strong family bonds. Poco must feel the loss of his pod.
"These whales in these situations where they are alone,
people can get very emotional about it," Ms. Kinsman said.
"I'm glad for that sense of compassion. We're trying to
balance the compassion we have for the animal with what's best for him as an
Ms. Kinsman said any decision to try moving
Poco, possibly relocating him to the St. Lawrence River, would have to be made
by the federal Fisheries Department.
She said the idea
has been discussed, although it has been ruled out for now.
"At this point, because he seems to be doing OK and
travelling around, there are no plans to move him."
Kinsman said capturing and moving a whale is very stressful for the animal.