This week in the St. Lawrence, beluga vocalizations accompany the northern lights, while minke whales attract attention with their spectacular behavior.

Minke whales steal the show

The presence of minke whales in the Tadoussac area is the source of many sightings! From the Centre d’interprétation des mammifères marins, two naturalists having dinner were able to observe a minke whale in the mouth of the Saguenay. Perhaps it too was feeding? From the ferry between Baie-Sainte-Catherine and Tadoussac, crew and passengers watched a minke whale breach. The moment was even filmed! So keep your eyes peeled when crossing the fjord!

From the Tadoussac dunes, humpback and fin whales have been reported, but once again it’s the minke whales that steal the show. In an area where thousands of gulls and ducks congregate offshore, minke whales were part of the feast,” recounts one enthusiast. Sometimes we’d just see pectorals sticking out at the surface, or a few acrobatics.

In Cacouna, several harbor seal sightings are listed in the marine mammal viewing tool developed by the Réseau d’observation de mammifères marins (ROMM). Anyone can contribute to the tool, by submitting citizen observations.

Between Baie-Comeau and Franquelin, minke whales and porpoises are spotted in the mist. A blow off Franquelin suggested the presence of a large whale. Perhaps it was the humpback whale that had been in action near the shore a few days earlier in the same area?

A local resident reports the presence of whales and seals near her home: “A minke whale on Monday May 13 around 7:30 p.m. offshore near the mouth of the Brochu River in Gallix… it made a few very quick trips out of the water and a harbor seal a little closer to shore.”

Hours on water

A research assistant accompanying a Fisheries and Oceans Canada boat made numerous marine wildlife sightings during her hours on the water. On May 10, her route through the estuary crossed that of two feeding minke whales at the mouth of the Saguenay and off Baie-Sainte-Catherine. Off Ile Verte, she spots a harbour porpoise and a grey seal devouring a fish. Between 80 and 100 belugas were scattered between Baie-Sainte-Catherine and Les Bergeronnes. They were mostly white,” she explains, “but there were also a few grays. At the end of the day, we had a great group of 20.

Near Les Bergeronnes, a fin whale is spotted. “We spent 12 hours on the water and covered a lot of nautical miles, so it makes for great sightings! On May 16, belugas are still numerous everywhere, while a minke whale swims around the mouth of the Saguenay.

White backs replace mirrors

Whitebacks can be seen in large numbers on the Saguenay and in the estuary. The ice has finished flowing down the Saguenay River,” says a resident of Tadoussac, “but today, there are so many belugas coming down the Saguenay that it still looks like spring ice!

Hikers surveying the upper shores of Petit Saguenay noticed small white spots moving in the water. They were probably belugas! Further upstream, at the L’Isle-aux-Coudres ferry, as well as at Rivière-du-Loup, groups of between 8 and 13 individuals were spotted on numerous occasions.

Belugas in phase with the northern lights

The colorful sails of the northern lights set the nights of May 10 and 11 ablaze. From Tadoussac, a photographer spent the night surveying the shores to capture this spectacle in action above the St. Lawrence. He shares a very special moment, when the belugas added a touch of poetry: “I was even treated to beluga vocalizations in Pointe-Noire as I photographed the aurora… The cherry on the sundae! […] It’s impossible not to be in the moment before such a sound and light show. I wonder if they were aware of the aurora? While this phenomenon normally only occurs in the far north, a solar storm made the light show visible from just about anywhere in the world. From the shores of the St. Lawrence, the sky was decked out in red, green and mauve.

Thanks to all our collaborators!

Special thanks go out to all our observers who share their love for marine mammals with us! Your encounters with cetaceans and pinnipeds are always a pleasure to read and discover.

On the water or from shore, it is your eyes that give life to this column.

Linda Beaupré
Patrice Corbeil
Laetitia Desbordes
Yannick Lapointe
Diane Ostiguy
Mathieu Marzelière
Élizabeth Melis
Camille Némond
Renaud Pintiaux
Pascal Pitre
Christine Stadelmann
Andréanne Sylvain
Marielle Vanasse

And all those we left out!

Additionally, we would like to acknowledge the following teams that also share their sightings:
Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS)
Marine Mammal Observation Network (ROMM)
Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network (QMMERN)
Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM)

Would you also like to share your observations?

Have you seen any marine mammals in the St. Lawrence? Whether it’s a spout offshore or just a couple of seals, drop us a line and send your photos to [email protected]!

Observation of the Week - 16/5/2024

Andréanne Forest

Andréanne Forest is the editor-in-chief of Whales Online since may 2022. After studying in environment and biology, she turned to science communication with the goal of making science both accessible and fun. Andréanne wishes to highlight the process of acquiring knowledge while transmitting the desire to learn.

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