Research projects

Marine mammals, these animals that inhabit an environment that we know quite
poorly, have long intrigued and fascinated mankind. Thanks to scientific
research, we are getting to know them better and are beginning to understand
the issues that they face.

Discover here various research projects that over the years have given us
further insight into the whales of the St. Lawrence.

Blue whale

Since 1979, MICS, which fine-tuned the individual identification method based on skin pigmentation patterns, has managed a catalogue of 420 blue whales for the St. Lawrence. Other projects are being...

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What do blue whales do underwater?

The Northwest Atlantic blue whale population has been classified as endangered since 2002. In order to better protect this species, it is essential that we gain a better understanding of how blue whal...

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Who are the St. Lawrence blue whales?

The St. Lawrence is the seasonal residence of one of the largest concentrations of blue whales of the Northern Hemisphere. What is their relationship with the other blue whales of the Atlantic? It is ...

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Why do St. Lawrence blue whales pair up in the fall?

Blue whales are reputed to be solitary giants. Yet, in the fall, St. Lawrence blue whales are often seen in pairs. What could explain this behaviour? Pair of blue whales Photo credit : © GREMM To go ...

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Fin Whale

In the St. Lawrence, certain individuals are faithful to their summer feeding grounds and return every year, while others have been observed just once or twice. In the Estuary, a significant whale-wat...

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Are fin whales at the mercy of available food?

A research project that was carried out in the early 2000s lifted the veil on how krill influences the dispersal of fin whales. It was observed that the more abundant the krill, the more fin whales we...

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Are Nova Scotia and St. Lawrence fin whales the same animals?

Although Fin whales are present throughout most of the North Atlantic, their movements and population structures are not very well known. In summer, western North Atlantic fin whales are frequently ob...

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Does krill influence the dispersal of fin whales?

Krill Photo credit : © Fisheries and Oceans Canada The Lower St. Lawrence Estuary is a major plankton traps. Large quantities of krill can be found in this area. Krill is the prey of several species ...

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What do fin whales do during the day? And at night?

It is essential that we have a better understanding of how fin whales, occupy their time in order to ensure their harmonious co-existence with the whale watching industry. What is important for them? ...

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What ties unite the fin whales of the North Atlantic?

Fin whales are present year round throughout the Atlantic. The cosmopolitan nature of fin whales intrigues biologists. Are there bonds between the fin whales observed in different areas of the Atlanti...

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Who are the fin whales of the Estuary?

Every summer, dozens of fin whales enter the Gulf of St. Lawrence and swim up the Estuary to the head of the Laurentian Channel. Numerous whale-watching vessels offer cruises to go out to meet these g...

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Harbour Porpoise

Harbour porpoises’ coastal habits and our fishing methods don’t make a good match. In the early 1990s, thousands of incidental catches in fishing nets prompted fears for the species’ survival....

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Are St. Lawrence harbour porpoise still victims of bycatch?

In 2003, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) revised and lowered the status of the Northwest Atlantic harbour porpoise population from “threatened” to that of ...

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Minke Whale

Amongst the great cetaceans, this species, which was of little interest to the whalers of yesteryear, is today the most abundant in the world. In some aspects, the minke whale is still poorly understo...

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Do minke whales employ unique feeding strategies in the Saguenay Fjord?

Certain individual whales show a marked preference for specific feeding sites. Numerous anecdotal observations suggest that these individuals develop feeding strategies that are adapted to their prefe...

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Multi-species

To understand the importance of marine mammals in the St-Lawrence, it is necessary to gather informations concerning their feeding habits and the structure of the food web they belong to....

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Are Gulf of St. Lawrence rorqual whales contaminated?

The St. Lawrence drains a heavily industrialized area, which explains the presence of numerous toxic contaminants. It has been demonstrated that beluga whales, which are permanent residents of the St....

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Can the great whales of the Estuary tell us where they are?

The St. Lawrence Estuary is an area where a good number of whales come to feed and where thousands of curious tourists converge to observe them. Is it possible to use sound to describe the critical ha...

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Do the whale-watching boats disturb whales?

In the St. Lawrence Estuary, nearly 50 whale-watching boats transport over 300 000 tourists onto the Estuary every year to encounter whales. Fin whales, blue whales, humpback whales and minke whales a...

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Is it possible to do a pregnancy test on free-ranging cetaceans?

The health of a given population resides, for the most part, in its ability to reproduce itself. The capacity to evaluate the gestation rate of adult females can therefore reveal a great deal about a ...

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What are the whale-watching boats doing?

It is essential that we get a better understanding of the behaviour of whale watching boats in order to manage this industry in the area between Tadoussac and Les Escoumins. Whale watch Photo credit :...

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What influences the accumulation of whale food in the Estuary?

Situated between Tadoussac and Les Bergeronnes, the head of the Laurentian Channel is one of the major plankton traps of the North Atlantic. Several species of whales come to feed in this area over th...

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What roles do marine mammals play in St. Lawrence ecosystems?

Marine mammals are basically predators, but their importance in marine ecosystems is often not well known. Information concerning marine mammal feeding habits and the structure of the food web they be...

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North Atlantic right whale

With a critical threshold of a population estimated at less than 500 individuals, this species is the most threatened in the world due to the intensive hunting that had been practised for centuries....

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Are the Basques responsible for the decline of North Atlantic right whales?

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered of the large whales: no more than 350 remain. It is thought that Basque whaling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the coast of Labrador i...

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Northern Bottlenose Whale

Since 1988, the small fragile population of the Gully has been the subject of a long-term monitoring study conducted by the team of Professor Hal Whitehead of Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Sco...

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Who are the northern bottlenose whales of the Scotian Shelf?

A small, endangered population of northern bottlenose whales inhabits a limited area some 200 km off Nova Scotia’s coast. A good understanding of the biology of this population is required in order ...

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St. Lawrence Beluga

Studies on the complex organization of beluga social life are used as a basis for developing protective measures and the recovery plan for this species. Research projects on this emblematic animal of ...

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Are beluga whales victims of PAHs?

The principal suspects in the development of intestinal cancer in beluga whales are the PAHs produced by aluminum smelters in the Saguenay area. However, scientific proof of this connection has yet to...

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Are living belugas as contaminated as dead belugas?

Everything we know so far about the contamination and health of St.Laurent belugas was obtained from the examination of stranded animals. One might ask whether these carcasses are representative of th...

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Are St-Lawrence belugas contaminated (2015)

The St. Lawrence beluga lives in the heart of a densely populated and highly industrialized region. In the 1970s, scientists revealed that the species was heavily contaminated with heavy metals, PAHs ...

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Are we making too much noise?

Belugas depend to a large extent on their sense of hearing to communicate, to orient themselves and to hunt. Their habitat is becoming more and more noisy, to the point that we often use the term nois...

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Do beluga whales have friends?

Belugas live in groups. Sometimes these groups contain hundreds of individuals, at other times just a few. A greater understanding of the nature and function of these groups is imperative to successfu...

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Do PAHs (toxic contaminants) cause cancer in St. Lawrence beluga whales?

The St. Lawrence beluga whale population is heavily contaminated by various toxic products including heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), PCBs and DDT. This population also has the h...

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How many beluga whales are there?

Counting belugas is not an easy task! That said, in order to closely monitor the situation, it is essential that we keep track of the size and the rate of change of this endangered population. Pod of ...

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How many contaminants are found in belugas?

Several dozen toxic chemicals of man-made origin have been discovered in St. Lawrence belugas tissues since 1982. While many of these contaminants likely have an impact on the beluga’s health, their...

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Is the accumulation of fire-retardant products in beluga whales a cause for concern?

The demand for fire-retardant products (which reduce the flammability of materials) has drastically increased in the past few decades. These products include a number of organobromine compounds such a...

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Is the belugas immune system still intact?

Many chemical pollutants, including organochlorines, can weaken the immune system. As a logical follow-up to the pathologies observed in the necropsy room, scientists hypothesized that toxic chemicals...

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Morbillivirus epidemic : a threat for the St. Lawrence beluga ?

In 1988-1989, after a morbillivirus epidemic, 17 000 seals were found dead on the European coastline. The same strain of virus also killed hundreds of dolphins and porpoises in Europe and along the Ea...

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Potential impacts of shipping lane rerouting on St. Lawrence belugas (2015)

The St. Lawrence Seaway is a gateway to North America. When they arrive in the Estuary, vessels pass through the heart of whale feeding grounds and the summer habitat of belugas. Concern has been rais...

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Traffic in beluga calving grounds (2015)

Added to the merchant ships crisscrossing the St. Lawrence beluga’s summer range are recreational and marine mammal-watching boats. This traffic has a number of observable impacts: risks of coll...

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What are belugas dying from (2015)

Every year, some 15 or so belugas are found stranded on the shores of the St. Lawrence. What are they dying from? Examination of these carcasses speaks volumes about the health of the population and c...

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What do belugas die from?

Each year around 15 belugas are found stranded along the shores of the St. Lawrence. What do they die from? An examination of these carcasses has revealed uncommon health problems in this population. ...

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What do belugas do underwater?

Despite the considerable efforts that have already been deployed to study St. Lawrence belugas, researchers are still in the dark as to what these animals do once they leave the surface. Yet, it is be...

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What do young beluga whales die of?

The analysis of beluga whale carcasses found along the shores of the St. Lawrence between 1983 and 1999 led researchers to establish the chief causes of death of individuals within this population. Th...

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