Jan 9 (Reuters) - Several killer whales are trapped and at times panicking in the sea ice of Hudson Bay, and a local mayor is calling on the Canadian government to send an icebreaker to save them.
The whales are taking turns breathing through a hole in the ice about the size of a pickup truck in the frigid waters near the remote Inuit community of Inukjuak, Quebec.
"They are trapped," the community's mayor, Peter Inukpuk, told CBC radio on Wednesday. "It appears from time to time that they panic. Other times they are gone for a long time, probably looking for another open space, which they are not able to find at the moment."
He said a hunter first spotted the whales on Tuesday. There are 11 whales, including several small ones, which could mean they are all from the same family, the mayor said.
Inukpuk said it was unusual to see the killer whales in the area in January but he noted that the waters were late to freeze this year.
Inukpuk said they've asked the Canadian government to send an icebreaker as their community of 1,800 people was not equipped to save the whales.
The Canadian government's Fisheries and Oceans department has dispatched specialists to the site to determine what course of action, if anything, could be taken, according to Frank Stanek, a spokesman for the department.
He said the department was "assessing the situation and exploring every possible option." (Reporting By Russ Blinch; Editing by Sandra Maler)