With their imposing size, baleen whales live on an entirely different scale. Their habitat ranges between warm waters where they breed and calve in the summer, and cold waters closer to the poles, where food concentrations are adequate to meet their gargantuan needs. For these species, migration usually takes place on a north-south axis, as is the case for humpbacks.

However, discoveries have revealed large-scale movements from one side of the ocean to the other. Such was the case for the gray whale Varvara. This whale left the island of Sakhalin in Russia on November 24, 2011, crossed the North Pacific and reached Baja California in Mexico on February 2, 69.5 days later. She’s not the only one. Two other gray whales, probably belonging to the Northwest Pacific population like Varvara, crossed the ocean to areas frequented by gray whales of the Northeast.

Monitoring of the blue whale B105, photographed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1984 and tracked to the Azores in 2014, cast doubts on the migration patterns of North Atlantic blue whales, which had been believed to lie on a north-south axis. This was the first time the migration of a blue whale had been documented between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the eastern reaches of the North Atlantic.

To learn more:

On whale migration

Whale Q&A - 5/2/2016

Marie-Sophie Giroux

Marie-Sophie Giroux joined the GREMM in 2005 until 2018. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and a diploma in Environmental Consulting. As Lead Naturalist, she oversees and coordinates the team working at the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre and writes for Whales Online and Whale Portraits. She loves to share “whale stories” with visitors to the CIMM and readers alike.

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