New Brunswick

Wandering whale in Nepisiguit to be assessed by specialists

Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers and biologists are on scene at the Nepisiguit river to assess the health of a beluga whale in a "difficult situation."

The whale has been seemingly stuck in the Nepisiguit River near a popular swimming hole for a week

Kelley Chiasson captured the beluga in Bathurst on video, and posted it to Facebook earlier in the month. (Kelley Chiasson)

Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers and biologists are on scene at the Nepisiguit river to assess the health of a beluga whale in a "difficult situation."

"The first bad decision was to lose his group. And then he got into a difficult situation in that river," said Robert Michaud, head scientist for GREMM, a whale research and education group from Quebec.

"Very likely the river was open a week ago when the tide was very high so the animal was able to swim in, but with the retreating tide over the last few days, the option out is not available anymore."

Representatives from GREMM will join DFO and Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) staff to prepare a plan to move the mammal.

"We hope to have a plan ready tonight on if and when and how," said Michaud

Talk of the town

Mackenzie Coombs, Ashley Doucet, and their son, Thomas, wandered down the hill from Rough Waters to try to catch a glimpse of the whale, spotted in the Nepisiguit River.

"There's been lots of rumours going around saying it's up here. Saying it's close up to where the pump house was," said Coombs.

Mackenzie Coombs, Ashley Doucet, and their son Thomas Coombs tried to spot the whale Wednesday afternoon, to no avail. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

The pump house is a popular swimming hole for people in Bathurst. Some have swum in the water to get closer to the whale, which can only be seen certain times of the day.

"We saw videos on Facebook, but that's about it," said Ashley Doucet.

The trio returned home without spotting Bathurst's newest celebrity.

Krista Peterson, spokesperson for Department of Fisheries and Oceans, reminded the public to stay away from the beluga — no matter how much you'd like to get close.

"It is illegal to disturb marine mammals, including beluga whales. The beluga is currently listed as Endangered under the Canadian Species at Risk Act," she said in an email to CBC News.

'Vagrant whale'

Robert Michaud has a quick response as to why the whale swam upriver:

"We should ask it! Every spring we do have vagrant belugas that get separated from their herd. We do believe this animal belongs to the St. Lawrence population," he said.
Robert Michaud, head scientist of GREMM, out of Quebec, says the beluga is a "vagrant whale," which is common in the Maritimes (Radio-Canada)

"Sometime in April or May most animals make their way back to the summer ground. Some animals lose their partners and get lost somehow. Every year we do have vagrants like that."

Michaud's team, with DFO and MARS, will gather more information on the whale in the coming days, and will possibly execute a rescue later this week.


Bridget Yard is the producer of CBC's Up North. She previously worked for CBC in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan as a video journalist and later transitioned to feature storytelling and radio documentaries.