The fight to save the vulnerable whale lost in the Seine

French environmentalists were hoping to feed a worryingly thin beluga whale a catch of herring that has strayed from its Arctic habitat into France’s Seine River.

Hey fear that ethereal white mammal is slowly starving in the waterway that flows through Paris and beyond.

“We are clearly in a race against the clock,” said Lamya Essemally, president of the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd France.

“It’s actually extremely thin. Its bones are sticking out. I don’t know if it’s too late already.”

Conservationists were hoping to spare the whale the fate of another, an orca, also known as a killer whale, which strayed and then died in the Seine in May.

The beluga was first spotted in the river earlier this week.


A beluga whale is seen in the Seine River in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, in this image taken from video footage run by the French fire services of the Eure region (SDIS 27), Thursday, August 4, 2022 . French officials are tracking a beluga whale that has strayed too far from its Arctic habitat into the Seine River, raising fears that the ethereal white mammal could starve if it lives in the waterways flowing to Paris and beyond. Is. (via SDIS27 AP)

Drone footage later shot by French fire services showed the whale moving slowly across a stretch of light green waters of the river between Paris and the Normandy city of Rouen, several dozen miles inland from the sea.

“It’s quite an impressive animal, which is white (and) that seems calm. It doesn’t seem stressed, is regularly exposed,” Patrick Herot, a fire officer in Normandy’s Eure region, told French broadcaster TF1.

But Sea Shepherd France said the whale appeared to be in poor condition when it was sighted on Friday. The group had a boat on the river, with drones, trying to monitor it—no direct task with a mammal that can spend several minutes underwater.

In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Ms Essemli said, Sea Shepherd France hopes to help the whales maintain their strength by feeding them a catch of herring.

“We are very worried,” she said. “The urgency is to feed it.”

In ocean waters, belugas eat fish as well as octopuses, squid, crabs, shrimp and a range of other animals. But the freshwater river cannot meet its dietary needs.

“It cannot feed itself into the Seine,” said Ms Essemally.


French officials are tracking a beluga whale that strayed into the Seine River (François Mori / AP)

Belugas are a comparatively small member of the whale family, measuring around 13 feet in length.

Ms Essemli said that instead of trying to transport the vulnerable whale back to sea, Sea Shepherd France is pushing to capture it so it can be brought back into Arctic waters by plane, which is likely.

She said the DNA test could determine whether it came from the waters around Norway, Canada or Russia.

“It’s logistically difficult, but doable,” she said. “It will be a matter of desire.”

“It will be possible only if we can feed it,” she said.

Eure region officials said the whale was believed to be wandering 25 miles down the river between two locks northwest of Paris.

He also noted that the mammal seemed worryingly thin and that it swam away from boats in hopes of guiding them towards the wide mouth of the river between the sea ports of Le Havre and Honfleur.

“It is capable of being submerged for long periods of time and covering long distances,” Eure officials said in a statement.

Belugas’ pale skin and raised forehead make them easily recognizable. Also known for their sociability, they habitually live, hunt and migrate together in pods.