Thursday, December 31, 2009

Surf’s up, let’s save the whales

Federal fishery officers from Digby and Yarmouth counties moved some stranded pilot whales off a couple of beaches Tuesday, although more than one of the whales returned to the cobbled shore after being rescued.

On Tuesday morning, a lone pilot whale was reported stranded on Port Maitland Beach in Yarmouth County.

The whale was lying on its side but appeared to be in decent shape, said fishery officer Howard Blinn from the Meteghan office.

Officers were in touch with marine mammal rescue experts at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

They rolled the whale onto a tarp so the animal was on its belly.

"Apparently they get disoriented if they're on their side," said Mr. Blinn.

Eight officers got the whale turned around.

"The tide was coming up. There was quite a bit of surf. Finally it kind of swam away," said Mr. Blinn.

"It might be injured. We don't know," he said.

But later in the day, reports came in that more whales had landed at Bartletts Beach, about five kilometres away, on the Digby County line.

Officers said there were at least four whales, including one smaller one weighing maybe 360 kilograms or less.

One whale died.

The largest in the group was about four metres long and weighed an estimated tonne.

As rescuers were keeping the large whale in an upright position to aid its breathing, a smaller whale was spotted splashing in the surf, making its way back toward shore.

Two officers in wetsuits waded out to turn it around and push it back to sea.

That whale didn't go far and was seen swimming up and down the beach not more than 50 metres offshore.

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