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Updated: Killer whales trapped in ice near Inukjuak have gone

By Elizabeth Batt     Jan 9, 2013 in Environment
Quebec - Eight to 17 orcas filmed trapped in ice near Inukjuak, northern Quebec have moved on according to Inukjuak Mayor, Petah Inukpuk.
Video of the orcas who are spyhopping and appear stressed was originally sent to CTV by Lisa Di Ciero. It was captured by Clement Rousseau who then uploaded the video to his Facebook page, in the hopes of getting the killer whales some help.
Rousseau said he posted the film, "hoping that the right person will see this video, a person that can help us to bring them back to the open water ..."
The video began a movement amid the activist community to put pressure on Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), to step in and seek a solution. Reminiscent of the 1988 grey whale rescue in Point Barrow, Alaska, that was featured in the film Big Miracle, activists used social media and urged Canada to take action.
News of the trapped whales reached CTV Montreal who said "Residents of Inukjuaq are concerned that there is not enough open water for the whales to swim out." How many orcas are trapped remains unknown, but estimates put the number somewhere between eight to 17 mammals.
Yesterday, according to CBC News, DFO officials haven't decided yet what to do about the orcas. Johnny P. Williams of Inukjuak told the station he visited the whales, and they seem desperate for air.
"It is difficult to go near the ice since the waves from the whales are making it impossible," he said in Inuktitut. "The breathing hole is getting smaller and smaller. Their whole body jumps up for air."
An airplane was dispatched to determine how far the whales were from open water. Williams reported, "the open ice is too far away for the whales to go on their own and only an icebreaker could help them out."
In 2005, six killer whales trapped by thick ice in Russian waters died exhausted and wounded after an attempt to break free. Strong winds blew in ice floes which trapped the whales in shallow waters in the Sea of Okhotsk. It is unclear how the current pod of whales became trapped.
Erin Cunliffe said that she had called emergency fisheries of Canada and they had the information on the orcas. "All he could tell me," Cunliffe said, "was that they are doing something about it."
Activists also urged people to call DFO's emergency number to request they intercede on behalf of the orcas.
Further video of the whales' predicament was uploaded to YouTube by TheKayuk:
Update: Nathalie Letendre of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, told Digital Journal a short while ago that DFO is "aware of the situation and confirms that a pod of killer whales is trapped in ice near Inukjuak."
Letendre added, "a team of experts from DFO is working very closely with its partners in Nunavik to evaluate the situation. Situations where marine mammals are trapped by the ice are not unusual in the North."
Digital Journal asked DFO if this situation is not unusual in the North, would you say then that DFO does not think the situation critical at this point?
NL: By unusual, I mean that it is not the first time that marine mammals are stuck in the ice. DFO considers it important to be on site to evaluate the situation correctly. That’s why our experts are presently travelling in the direction of Inukjuak.
DFO never reached the whales before they disappeared. Rumors that an icebreaker had been dispatched also proved untrue. This was confirmed by the US Coast Guard.
A Big Miracle was needed
Activists, not ready to give up on the whales collaborated with Kasco Marine, Inc., a Minnesota company that helped keep two grey whales alive in Alaska with their de-icers back in the 80s. As seen in the movie Big Miracle), Kasko offered 20 de-icer units for the whales and planned to fly them in.
"We can keep the ice open until an icebreaker can free them," Kenneth Rust of Kasco said.
Inukjuak is a northern village located on Hudson Bay at the mouth of the Innuksuak River in Nunavik. It is in the Nord-du-Québec region of northern Quebec, Canada.
These grey whales were helped by Kasko Marine Inc. They are now trying to help the orcas.
These grey whales were helped by Kasko Marine Inc. They are now trying to help the orcas.
Mayor Petah Inukpuk declared the whales had left the area earlier Thursday morning (Jan. 10), but now news is filtering in that the whales may not have made it out of Hudson Bay. Further details are available here.
More about killer whales trapped, orca trapped in ice near Inukjuak, Northern Quebec, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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