The beluga saga: Is the cetacean enough? [OPINION]


The excitement will have lasted eight days, from August 2 to 10, where the story ends in fish tail. On Wednesday, the ocean defense NGO Sea Shepherd wrote on Twitter: « It is with heavy hearts that we announce that the beluga did not survive to translocation. (…) The veterinarians took the decision to euthanize him” on his arrival in Ouistreham (Calvados), where he was to be released offshore. Victim of anoxia (decrease in the quantity of oxygen, editor's note), “The suffering was obvious for this animal”, confided Françoise Ollivet-Courtois, veterinarian of Sdis.

Spotted on August 2 in the Seine, the white whale had been retained since Friday in the basin of a lock in Saint-Pierre-La-Garenne (Eure). Thinned, the animal no longer fed. In soft, warm water, the meanders of the river imposed 220 km on it to reach the English Channel. A challenge.

In the absence of a suitable structure, the rescue operation was epic, "particularly sensitive and heavy in logistics"said Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd. The translocation mobilized 80 people (firefighters and gendarmes included) but it had little chance of succeeding. The banks of the Seine were not accessible to vehicles at the place planned for the extraction of the cetacean and everything had to be transported by hand. The beluga measured four meters and weighed 800 kg. The transfer by truck to the Norman port was fatal to him.

What's more, we had to act quickly: if she wasn't put back at sea before today, blocking the Ouistreham lock would have cost 100.000 euros per day and the state did not want to pay them. The operation now amounts to 40.000 euros. "Thanks to a fundraiser, Sea Shepherd collected three-quarters of it in less than 5 hours and in 18 countries", rejoices Lamya Essemlali.

What was not done to get this protected species out of its wanderings! Ten members of the NGO took turns H24 to take his breath every five minutes. Media time was suspended on the flight of this "sea canary", nickname of the beluga, capable of producing a very wide range of sounds.

It is not known why the white whale strayed into the fresh waters of the Seine, especially since its bulbous forehead has a very developed sonar to orient itself and it is a gregarious species, as the magazine points out. Geo, unlike the fin whale, an individual of which was observed in early July in the Le Havre estuary. In May, we also found an orca in difficulty between Rouen and Le Havre. We couldn't save her and the animal had died of starvation.

From the same family as the sperm whale, the killer whale and the dolphin, the beluga lives in the Arctic regions and in the St. Lawrence estuary. Interviewed by AFP, oceanographer François Sarano speaks "individuals who leave the clan and make more or less long escapades to explore other places" but who, once "carried in one direction, return with great difficulty backwards".

Other hypotheses: the influence of the magnetic poles would have brought the beluga “not taking the right path at the start”The modification of sea currents due to global warming could also have misled it, the changes in temperature acting on the mass and density of water. Not to mention the noise pollution. Killer whales maintain acoustic contact with each other 15 km away. If the beluga strays so low in latitude, can we see human interference? Lamya Essemlali believes that "the future wind farm off Courseulles-sur-Mer (Calvados) may also have disrupted it".

The beluga saga raises several questions:

Should nothing be done? It was to condemn him to death. We would have seen the animal run aground or a barge would have struck it. NGOs would have been criticized for their inaction.

Should he be euthanized? “Only the interest of the animal prevailed”, says Lamya Essemlali. In respiratory distress, he died in agony. If the NGO had only seen its media interest, it would have favored a happy end.

Should the same be done? This deployment of energy made it possible to raise public awareness better than a communication campaign, and certainly at a lower cost. The beluga is now a sympathetic ambassador of endangered oceans. Sea Shepherd received messages from children. If they say they are sad that the cetacean died, they are sensitive to all that has been done for it.

Is the life of a man worth less than that of a cetacean? Jacques Attali tweeted: “80 people to save a beluga is magnificent. How much to save every child in the world from hunger? "  The question does not arise that way. This media sequence aims to move most of the people who do nothing and whose action would be necessary. We cannot disqualify a particular fight on the pretext that other causes deemed more important do not mobilize as much as we would like. In addition, one does not prevent the other: Sea Shepherd, for example, also fights against illegal fishing practiced by Chinese trawlers in West Africa and whose populations are the first victims.

Louis Daufresne

source:  Le Monde

This article is published from Selection of the day.

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