Pod of killer whales trapped in sea ice struggle to survive
Local villagers plead with Canadian government to provide icebreakers to save trapped orcas
A REMOTE fishing village in northern Quebec has urged the Canadian government to help free a pod of killer whales that has become trapped in the sea ice of Hudson Bay.
Around a dozen killer – or orca - whales and several calves are said to be boxed into a small area of water, which is shrinking as the sea continues to freeze over.
The animals are thought to have been hunting seals when cold weather hit two day ago and froze the bay, which had remained open late into winter because of unseasonably warm weather.
Andrew Trites, director of marine mammal research unit at the University of British Columbia, told the Toronto Star the whales normally leave by October before the ice freezes. But in this case, he said, it seems they "got careless".
Inukjuak, home to around 1,800 Inuits, is only accessible by plane in the winter and is not equipped to help the killer whales.
The animals are becoming agitated and panicked, at times attempting to come up to the surface all at once, gasping for air, the local mayor, Peter Inukpuk, told the National Post. The whales face not only a limited air supply, but a limited food supply as well.
"I don't know how long they will last," said Inukpuk. "We would need outside help if there's any chance of keeping them alive."
The "only solution", he believes, is to bring in an icebreaker to allow the whales to move closer to open water.
Experts from Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans are due to arrive today to assess the situation but a spokesman has warned CBC that sending in icebreakers is an expensive option and could prove logistically difficult. Presently, the icebreakers are occupied on the Saint Lawrence River, where three commercial ships are stuck in the ice.