A large pod of orcas trapped in the ice and struggling to stay alive in Hudson Bay in northern Quebec has captured the attention of marine mammal groups and fisheries officials, and a rescue attempt appears unlikely in the remote location. At least 12 orcas, or killer whales, have been watched by villagers from nearby Inukjuak since late Monday.
Image shows orcas trying to keep the ice from shrinking around them. Screen-grab is courtesy of YouTube user TheKayuk.
Video posted to Facebook on Tuesday by Clement Rousseau brought the situation to light. (The video posted below features better footage, but an odd choice of music.)
The mammals have only a small patch of open water in which to breathe. The patch is slowly shrinking and there’s concern that all of the orcas will die soon if they don’t achieve a path to open water.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which has been inundated with pleas for help on behalf of the orcas, has scheduled a fly-over on Thursday. There were unconfirmed reports that the U.S. Coast Guard was sending an icebreaker but DFO spokeswoman Caroline Hilt said late Wednesday: “We are not aware of any request to the USCG for an icebreaker.”
It’s not clear whether the orcas can last through another night.
On Wednesday, Inukjuak Mayor Petah Inukpuk told the Star that icebreakers were too far south and “out of reach.”
“That is the only solution for any chance of survival for those killer whales, but there is none nearby at the moment,” Petah said.
In the video, killer whale researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger said, the larger orcas can be seen spy-hopping aggressively to keep the hole open while the smaller ones are just surfacing to breathe.
Peter Inukpuk, mayor of the nearby village of Nunavik, told the CBC that the water in the area froze later than usual this year, which could help explain the presence of orcas just before the freeze.
There are young orcas with the pod of mostly females. There have been vague reports of a polar bear being killed, either by the orcas or villagers, after wandering too close to the breathing hole.
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