Top News

OPINION: I mourn for the right whale towed to my shore


Marine experts are shown conducting a necropsy on the North Atlantic right whale, Puncuation, in Petit Etang last week. The dead whale was located near the Magdalen Islands June 20 and towed by the Canadian Coast guard to Petit Etang last Monday. - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Marine experts are shown conducting a necropsy on the North Atlantic right whale, Puncuation, in Petit Etang last week. The dead whale was located near the Magdalen Islands June 20 and towed by the Canadian Coast guard to Petit Etang last Monday. - Fisheries and Oceans Canada

By BRENDA LLOYD

She was a good mother. At least, that’s what the people involved in her news story have been telling us the last few days.

I first ran into her a few days ago, at the end of the short lane I walk daily to get to the beach. She was certainly hard to miss.

Her stench hit me first, and then there she was, bloated and corpulent, lying there naked for all to see. There were people walking around her, on top of her; some were standing inside of her, working, analyzing, cutting, taking samples and pictures of this and that.

I can’t say I envied them in their tasks. Working in and around the reek and goo of a days-old dead whale can’t be anyone’s idea of fun. (Or maybe it is? I certainly can’t speak for the people who were working there that day.)

I own a home in the small community of Petit Étang. I live directly across from the access road that leads to the spot — the spot on the beach — where Punctuation (so named because scars left on her body from prior ship strikes resembled commas and such), a North Atlantic right whale, was recently towed for necropsy after being discovered dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The small path that I have so often taken to find peace now leads to a place of death.

Oh, I don’t mean to sound as dramatic as all that. I understand the need for scientific followup in such circumstances. I’m an animal lover, and environmentally aware. And I certainly don’t mean to disrespect the people who were out there working that day; they were professional and industrious. I know they want answers. And having followed Punctuation and her life for years, they have a bigger right and reason than I to feel devastated over her loss.

Still, I cried as I walked back home that day. It all seemed too much like gratuitous slaughter; a waste; a farce. I guess because, in all truth, I don’t feel like any new information or insight will be gained by all of the scientific, technical, political and media drama that I saw being played out that day. All those people, all that money, all the months we’ve been told we have to wait before we find out what killed her, and I think we’re just going to be told the same thing they’ve been telling us all along:

The climate is changing. The small fish are moving. And the whales are following them.

That’s a pretty basic overview of the situation and I guess I could be wrong. I’m not a biologist, fisherman or ecologist.

I am simply, like so many others, resigned to listening to it all from the outside, and caught between wanting to save all of the whales on one hand and wanting to support an industry that provides for so many people on the other.

I can do nothing for the big industries involved in all of this but wish them well. The best that I — and others in my situation — can do is to learn from Punctuation’s death, and try to give it meaning.

We don’t have to wait the months they say it may take for the final report on the cause of her death to be released. Even if it comes back definitively as a fishing-equipment-related incident, we all know by now that she could just as likely have died with a belly full of plastic or from chemical poisoning, starvation or an illness caused by something that is going on in the water.

And because the problem begins with climate change, and it would seem it does, then that means that Punctuation’s death is on all of us.

And so…

I am going to be more mindful of what I do, waste and want. I am going to be a better steward of my own little piece of this world. That is how I will give meaning to what has happened here in this little community, and on our peaceful beach, in the last few days.

I urge others here and everywhere to do the same, and to not forget.

The necropsy is done. The stench is receding. And today, I saw the last large chunks of Punctuation being trucked up from the beach, and past my wee house, on the way to what will be her final resting spot.

Punctuation is, probably as I sit here writing this, being buried in a large hole in a gravel pit.

Of all the things I have found upsetting in the last few days, it is this last, tragic indignity that bothers me the most. She will not be returned to her home — the vast ocean — where logic dictates she will be recycled, reused and organically decomposed as nature intended.

Instead, she will be buried on land, along with the problem she represents; a decision made, it has been reported, so that the butchered pieces of Punctuation that do remain will never inadvertently wind up on a beach somewhere to inconvenience or otherwise offend residents and tourists.

She is now out of sight, out of mind and far too easy to forget. It’s a little sad to self-realize that I’m cynical enough to think most people quickly will.

When something like this happens in your own backyard (or on your own local beach), however, remembering is easier, and so I’m pretty sure that many in this community will do so.

I know that I will. I’m actually quite surprised by how much Punctuation’s death has upset me.

Which is why I felt the need to write this. And why, every morning, when I walk down that small lane to the beach, I know I’ll be looking for her ghost.

Brenda Lloyd (previously MacDonald) lives in Petit Étang.

RELATED:

Recent Stories