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WATCH: Killer whales trapped near Inukjuak
A pod of killer whales is trapped in the ice near a northern Quebec fishing village, using only a small patch of open water to breathe, say locals in the isolated community.
In a video posted to Facebook by Clement Rousseau, a local teacher, a number of the whales can be seen taking turns breaching in the small patch of open water: some torpedo straight up, several metres out of the water, while others surface porpoise-style to catch a breath.
Simeonie Nalukturuk, public safety officer for the nearby village of Inukjuak, confirmed no less than 11 whales are trapped.
"It looks quite beautiful, but we're not sure exactly what to do right now because where they are is very rough; the ice condition is dangerous," Nalukturuk told CTVNews.ca by phone.
The video was recorded on Tuesday, but the whales were still there on Wednesday morning, he said.
Nalukturuk said the whales shouldn't even be in the area this time of year. "We've only seen those kind of whales in the summer time, never in the winter time."
Killer whales are not all that common in the Arctic, although there have been a gradual increase in sightings since the 1950s, and that correlates with global warming.
The hole is not much bigger than a small pick-up truck, and Inukjuak Mayor Peter Inukpuk said it appears to be shrinking in the very cold temperatures there right now. Locals have been driving from hours away to see what's happening and help in any way they can, using chainsaws and chisels to try to open the hole for the pod.
More needs to be done, said marine mammal expert Andrew Trites.
"One is starvation," he said. "They could last quite awhile on their fat reserves, but ultimately they are going to have to eat. The second biggest problem that comes is if the ice gets thicker, the hole will get smaller and smaller, so that at some point the weakest mammals will no longer be able to get to the hole to breathe."
Village officials contacted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for assistance. Sources tell CTV the DFO will head to Inukjuaq tomorrow, and have called for an icebreaker to help free whales. The information has yet to be confirmed with the fisheries department.
Inukjuak is located about 1,600 kilometres north of Montreal, located on Hudson Bay’s east coast.