France: operation to bring a whale stuck in a river back to sea

France: operation to bring a whale stuck in a river back to sea


An operation was underway on Friday to try to guide a humpback whale stuck in the estuary of a river in Brittany, western France, to the sea, said an association which coordinates the rescue. 

The 7 to 10 meter long marine mammal was seen Thursday morning in the Rance, upstream from a tidal power plant that separates the river from the sea, Thierry Buanic, president of the naturalist association Al Lark, told AFP. .

“The absolute priority is to get the whale out of the estuary,” he insists.

The cetacean entered the Rance taking advantage of the opening of a valve of the tidal power plant near the coastal town of Saint-Malo and has since struggled to find its way out to sea despite several reopenings of the dam during the day. Thursday.

However, there is no particular concern for her health.

“She is in good shape, not at all downcast. The main problem is the difference in level between the Rance and the sea. So since this morning (Friday) 9 a.m., we have opened wide all the floodgates of the tidal power plant”, six in total each measuring 10 meters in wide for 15 m high, explains Mr. Buanic.

“The level of the Rance will approach that of the sea and at the same time, this creates a current which leads towards the sea of ​​the Rance outwards. We hope that the whale will follow the direction of the current to go back to its natural environment, ”adds the president of Al Lark.

If it happens that dolphins 2 or 3 meters long enter the river, it is on the other hand the first time that a humpback whale has strayed there since the commissioning of the tidal power plant in 1966.

Several associations for the protection of nature are taking part in the operation with boats, as well as the maritime gendarmerie and scientists from the National Museum of Natural History.

Very little is known about the animal, “which seems to be between 7 and 10 meters long and would therefore be rather young. We don't know if it's a male or a female, what she's doing there,” says Mr. Buanic. 

According to him, there is nothing extraordinary about this that a humpback whale circulates in the English Channel, although they tend to bypass this area due to heavy maritime traffic.