Authorities of Inukjuak, a remote Quebec fishing village, have asked Canada’s government to help free a dozen killer whales trapped in a vast stretch of ice inside Hudson Bay.
Locals in Inukjuak, 900 miles (1,500 km) north of Montreal, say the whales are breathing through a hole in the ice.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it is sending a team on Thursday to evaluate the situation.
A hunter in the area first spotted the whales on Tuesday, a day after locals say the bay froze.
Dozens of villagers made the one-hour snowmobile ride on Tuesday to see the whales.
“It appears from time to time that they panic,” Mayor Peter Inukpuk told broadcaster CBC.
“Other times they are gone for a long time, probably looking for another open space, which they are not able to find.”
Authorities of Inukjuak, a remote Quebec fishing village, have asked Canada’s government to help free a dozen killer whales trapped in a vast stretch of ice inside Hudson Bay
Inukjuak’s public safety officer told CTV’s website that the whales should not even be in the area in January.
“We’ve only seen those kind of whales in the summer time, never in the winter time,” Simeonie Nalukturuk said.
Several villagers said the hole appeared to be shrinking as the ice froze further.
Peter Inukpuk has asked for an icebreaker to free the whales – the Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it was still considering the situation.
“Fisheries and Oceans Canada is assessing the situation and are exploring every possible option, but will only be in a position to determine what – if anything – can be done once our specialists arrive on site,” spokesman Frank Stanek said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the department told the CBC that icebreaker ships were “really busy with the ice conditions that we have in other regions of our country”.
She added that three commercial ships had become stuck in ice along the St Lawrence River in Quebec this week.
A US judge is considering a complaint by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against SeaWorld claiming that five killer whales at its marine parks are treated like slaves because they’re forced to live in tanks and perform daily.
The case, which went to court Monday, could determine whether animals enjoy the same constitutional protection against slavery as human beings.
The five whales – Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka, and Ulises – have been named as the plaintiffs in the case. Attorney Jeffery Kerr is representing them and argues that SeaWorld is violating their 13th amendment, which prohibits slavery.
It is reportedly the first time a US court has heard legal arguments over whether animals should enjoy the same constitutional protections as humans.
SeaWorld’s legal team said the case was a waste of time and resources.
The marine park’s lawyer, Theodore Shaw, told the court in San Diego: “Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the <<We the people… >> when the Constitution was adopted.”
Theodore Shaw said that if the case were successful, it could have implications not just on how other marine parks or zoos operate, but even on the police use of sniffer dogs to detect bombs and drugs.
PETA says the killer whales are treated like slaves for being forced to live in tanks and perform daily at the SeaWorld parks in California and Florida
PETA says the killer whales are treated like slaves for being forced to live in tanks and perform daily at the SeaWorld parks in California and Florida.
It is not considered likely that the whales will win their freedom, but campaigners said they were pleased the case even made it to a courtroom.
The lawsuit invokes the 13th Amendment to the constitution, which abolished “slavery or involuntary servitude” in the US.
Jeffrey Kerr, the lawyer representing the five whales, said: “For the first time in our nation’s history, a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights and can be enslaved simply because they happen to not have been born human.
“By any definition these orcas have been enslaved here.”
Hearing the arguments for about an hour, US District Judge Jeffrey Miller raised concerns over whether animals could be represented as plaintiffs in a lawsuit.
He will issue a ruling at a later date.
PETA names the five wild-captured orca plaintiffs as Tilikum and Katina, at SeaWorld Orlando; and Kasatka, Corky, and Ulises, at SeaWorld San Diego.
It is not Tilikum’s first time in the media spotlight – he drowned his trainer before horrified spectators in February 2010, prompting a ban on the Florida park’s employees entering the water to perform tricks with the orcas.
The same whale has also been linked to two other deaths.