Lost Beluga Whale Spotted In French River, Miles Away From Arctic Home

It's unheard of to see a beluga this far south.


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockAug 5 2022, 10:53 UTC
Image of a beluga, aka a white whale, in an aquarium
The beluga is one of the smallest species of whale with a distinctive white color and melon-like forehead. Image credit: JohnL/

A beluga whale – a species usually found in the icy waters of the Arctic – has been spotted swimming up the River Seine in France, miles away from its natural home. It would appear this whale is very lost and there are huge concerns for its welfare, with officials already worrying that the individual looks underweight. 

The beluga was first spotted Tuesday in the river that flows through Paris from the English Channel and was last seen at a lock about 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the French capital, Agence France Presse (AFP) reports.


Sea Shepherd France, together will local authorities, has hatched a plan to rescue the beluga, but its fate still hangs in the balance. Last night, the marine conversation organization said they’re attempting to locate the whale using drones and boats with the aim of providing it with some food.

“To all those who care about the fate of the beluga: keeping your distance is essential. Help us to help it by respecting these instructions, the interest of the animal prevails over curiosity,” Sea Shepherd tweeted

Beluga whales are a species of cetacean closely related to narwhals found in the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. They are often seen along the coasts of Alaska, northern Canada, western Greenland, and northern Russia in the summer months, but it’s deeply unusual to see one as far south as continental Europe. 


Belugas are sociable creatures that live, hunt, and migrate together in pods often comprising dozens of individuals. This makes seeing a lone beluga even more concerning.

Fully grown males can grow up to 4.6 meters (15 feet) in length and weigh up to 1,143 kilograms (2,500 pounds). They’re specially adapted to living in cold water, with a stocky body that retains heat and the absence of a dorsal fin, which allows them to swim under the ice. 

The comparatively balmy River Seine, therefore, is not a good place for this whale to be. Although it's recently undergone a major clean-up, it’s still a polluted river that runs through urbanized areas, full of noise and other nasty surprises. 


The news of the lost beluga comes just months after an orca was found in the River Seine back in May 2022. Sadly, the sick killer whale was eventually found dead. Conservationists are hoping they can prevent another tragedy in the Seine, but it's still uncertain how this story will end.

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