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Whale Stewardship Project/Canadian Press
Poco the beluga whale is seen in this recent video image taken in the Bay of Fundy. He's no Moby Dick, but the lonely beluga lost in the Bay is garnering much attention as he searches for companionship in the waters off New Brunswick.

L'il Poco, please go home!

BY JENNIFER WATSON
Telegraph-Journal
July 22/04

    A friendly beluga whale who's been traveling the Atlantic for months seeking out divers and boats has not made the desired move to rejoin his whale family in northern waters and is instead hanging around looking for companions in the waters off the coast of Maine.
   And it's likely that by fall, the baby beluga will be cutting capers in New Brunswick waters.
   The little whale's first sighting was near an aquaculture site in the Bay of Fundy in September of 2003. He was seen circling a barge near Pocologan, New Brunswick and soon became known as "Poco."

WHALE: Researchers fear for tame beluga's safety in the Gulf of Maine

   Since then Poco has been spotted all along the eastern coast from New Brunswick to Massachusetts.
   Currently, he is in Maine and was spotted there a few weeks ago by the American Secret Service. Poco was apparently frolicking off the coast of Kennebunkport, Maine near President George Bush's summer estate when Secret Service officials spotted him.
   The last time Poco was seen in New Brunswick was this past Valentine's Day. He was seen by two divers around Deer Island.
    After that, Poco headed to American waters. He was spotted in Boston Harbour in April and it's likely that's where he spent the winter.
   Cathy Kinsman, project director for the Whale Stewardship Project, a non-profit group based in Musquodoboit Harbour near Halfiax, has studied and lobbied for the protection of lost belugas in Eastern Canada since 1998. She named the whale "Poco."
   Ms. Kinsman has been following Poco's adventures since he arrived.
   "We are really hoping that Poco is going to continue traveling northward," she said.
   She said that while it isn't unheard of for belugas to be in this part of the world, it is abnormal for one as young as Poco to be alone, so far away from his pod.
   Belugas make their home in the Arctic and sub-arctic regions and are rarely seen in waters south of the St. Lawrence River. The whale is endangered and only about 100,000 of them remain.
   Beluga whales generally travel together and researchers don't know what causes the creatures to separate from their pods. Theories include unexpected icepack shifts and shipping noise that makes it impossible for the highly communicative belugas to find their way to one another acoustically.
   It's probable that Poco, because he's alone and has no other whales to talk to, gravitates to the sound of boat motors and human sound in the water.
   He places himself in bad situations such as entering busy harbours. He has several long gashes on his back and Mr. Kinsman said in the last week Poco has sustained a brand-new cut on his head that is probably from a boat propeller.
   "I do fear for his safety, primarily because he is such an inquisitive little animal and is showing interest in absolutely everything that is going on in his environment," she said.
   Poco, who is about three years old and around nine feet long, is particularly fond of scuba divers and follows them around, peering into their face masks and rolling in the air bubbles rising from their gear.
   Ms. Kinsman said it would be ideal if Poco would go home.
   "I'm hoping, absolutely, that Poco will keep traveling until he gets back into the company of other beluga whales. That is his best chance for a normal and healthy and long life."

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