MONTREAL— Humane Society International/Canada applauded the people of Inukjuak for their compassionate response to the plight of up to one dozen orcas trapped in sea ice off their shores. Mayor Petah Inukpuk immediately called on the Canadian government and the international community to assist the whales, while local residents used all means at their disposal to free the animals. The Town Manager has confirmed to HSI this morning that high winds last night had shifted the ice, freeing the trapped orcas.
“This is a wonderful reprieve for the whales and we sincerely hope that they will find their way to open water,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada. “Since the news broke yesterday, we’ve been exploring every option we could think of to help these whales. Tragically, this situation is not uncommon in arctic waters, though these particular whales were likely in the region at this time of year as a result of our changing climate. While the world community would clearly like to see a coordinated response plan for situations of this kind, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is to be commended for dispatching a team immediately to the scene.”
A similar rescue effort was requested in 2008 when nearly 500 narwhals were trapped in sea ice off of Pond Inlet, Baffin Island. The DFO did not send an icebreaker in that situation and the narwhals perished. Our changing climate and other factors may lead to an increase in instances of cetaceans becoming trapped in sea ice. HSI urges the Canadian government to invest in a response strategy to address these situations.
In 1988, an international rescue team attempted to save three gray whales trapped in sea ice off the coast of Alaska. Two of the whales were led toward open water with a path of holes drilled in the ice and the use of an icebreaker.
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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI/Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than eleven million members and constituents globally—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.