PEI

P.E.I. family gets close-up look at beluga

A Charlottetown family got a close-up look at a beluga whale that has been spotted swimming in P.E.I. waters the last several days.

'Not too often we have a beluga whale swimming around in our backyard'

The whale swam close to a family's dock in Lewis Point Park in Charlottetown. (Submitted by Randy McQuaid)

A Charlottetown family was charmed by the sight of a beluga whale swimming close to their dock in Lewis Point Park Monday night — but luckily, not too mesmerized to grab some video. 

A beluga has been seen since last week in waters around Mount Stewart, in the Charlottetown Harbour and in the Meadowbank area of the West River and was even temporarily caught up in some fish nets, but managed to free itself. 

Randy McQuaid took the video at about 7 p.m. Monday as he was on the dock with his son Matthew and his friend.

The video shows the beluga swimming around for a while then departing.

"Not too often we have a beluga whale swimming around in our backyard in Charlottetown," commented McQuaid's wife, Katherine Josey McQuaid, as she posted the video to Facebook. 

Belugas are an endangered species that usually live in groups, and are noted for their pure white skins. This one may have become separated from its group because of ship noise or ice movement in the winter or spring — or simply because the whale has an adventurous personality, researchers say. 

Robert Michaud, a biologist and the scientific director for the Group for Research and Education in Quebec, said it's doubtful this beluga is the same one that was hanging around in Summerside Harbour last winter named Nepi, a whale rescued from a river in New Brunswick in June 2017.

"There are no signs suggesting it would be Nepi, and if it was Nepi my guess is that it would be much more inquisitive, more interested into humans, into boats, into wharves, and so far this animal has kept its distance," he said.

"This is maybe the best news of this sad story. These lost whales are at risk and the best thing for them is to avoid too much intimate contact with humans because then they have no motivation to leave."

Federal regulations require people to keep a 100-metre distance from marine mammals, but this beluga seems oblivious to the rules. 

A slow decline has been observed in the St. Lawrence Estuary population of belugas since the early 2000s, with a population size estimated at 900 individuals in 2012, according to DFO's website

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About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca

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