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Saguenay River: Left Behind

Arctic life survives deep in the fjord

More on the Saguenay River:
Saguenay River:
Essence of French Québec

Aluminum Toil:
The river and its people make the modern metal

A World Apart:
The stronghold of Quebec nationalism

Sad Ballerina:
Beluga whales face extinction from pollution

Left Behind:
Arctic life survives deep in the fjord

Rumours of More:
Fur traders hear tales of distant wealth

Tide of Destruction:
Flash flood ravages a valley

The Saguenay fjord is so rich in unusual life that the governments of Quebec and Canada have joined to make it a unique, underwater national park.

One of the objectives of making the fjord and part of the St. Lawrence estuary into a park is to protect its delicate marine life. Park status will permit greater control of activities such as whale-watching, fishing, hunting of birds and seals, and ship traffic.

Tour boats are now required to stay a safe distance from whales to reduce stress on the animals and reduce the incidents of physical injury from collisions between boats and whales.

The mouth of the Saguenay is the only place in the world with four different species of whale. The blue whale — as long as two tractor-trailer trucks — and the fin whale are found alongside the much smaller minke and beluga whales.

The belugas are in many ways the most interesting. Most belugas live in the Arctic. But the belugas of the Saguenay fjord and St. Lawrence estuary remain all their lives in these southern waters.

In the deep, cold waters of the Saguenay fjord live fish that are found elsewhere, only in Arctic waters. These fish include the Greenland halibut and the Arctic cod. They live in isolation from the populations of the far northern seas and probably survived in the Saguenay's cold depths when the ending of the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, warmed the surrounding waters.

The purity of the Saguenay water was spoiled in the 20th century, first by pollution from paper mills and then from aluminum smelters.

Creation of the Marine Park will not eliminate the industrial poisons already contaminating the fjord and its aquatic life. The park's presence will, however, make industries, governments and individuals more aware of its value and ecological fragility.

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