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Humpback Whale Montreal
Photograph: @eliseberniers / Instagram

10 photos and videos of Montreal's humpback whale visitor this weekend

This is the first time marine experts have ever recorded a humpback whale this far south in the Saint-Lawrence River.

By JP Karwacki
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In a rare turn of events this past Saturday, Montrealers were able to go whale watching from the shores of Old Montreal when a humpback whale paid an extremely rare visit to the city.

Starting around 8:30am on May 30, Instagram started to light up with photos and videos of the whale breaching the water near Montréal-Est. By 11am, the whale was swimming around the area of the Jacques Cartier Bridge and was close enough to be seen from the Quai de l'Horloge.

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There's currently no absolute explanation for why the whale has appeared this far up the Saint-Lawrence River, 400 kilometers from the ocean. The Groupe de recherche et d’education sur le mammiferes marins (GREMM) speculates that the whale could have been following prey, is exploring new territory or it could be disoriented. The whale however appears to be healthy; while it could develop skin problems from remaining in freshwater for too long, the only current danger to the whale is being in a body of water that's frequented by so much watercraft.

That said, federal agents reported to the scene to ensure that all boats were staying at least 100 metres away from the whale at all times, while experts from the GREMM, the marine mammal emergency network of Québec (RQUMM) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada all had some experts on the scene to document the phenomenon.

According to GREMM, sightings of the whale in the Saint-Lawrence River go back as early at May 26, as it was spotted around the bridges of Québec City. By the next day on May 27, the same (presumably) whale was filmed jumping by Portneuf, and was then seen off Deschaillons-sur-Saint-Laurent and Saint-Pierre-les-Becquets later in the day. By May 28th, the whale was near Bécancour. At the end of the day, it was around the Laviolette bridge in Trois-Rivières and near Lanoraie by May 29th.

Anyone who sees the whale is encouraged to contact the RQUMM at 1-877-722-5346 to make a report that may be helpful; please note that this number is not informational, only for reporting sightings.

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