Actually, it’s harp seals moving around energetically in the water. Solo, in pairs, by the handful or by the dozen, their visits off Franquelin continue one after the other but each one is unique. One day, they appear on the horizon like a quivering black line, and the next, they can easily be discerned near shore, their black-hooded heads and broad, harp-shaped black band on their silverish backs visible with the naked eye.

Could those be harp seals spotted by one observer off the coast of Les Escoumins on December 9? She tends to think they are dolphins; the animals, of which there are many, are moving fast and leaping out of the water.

Dolphins are known for their rapid and energetic swimming. They move in tight groups, successively leaping and, sometimes, riding the waves of ships. Several hundred white-sided dolphins were seen in the Estuary in November. Few elements of their lives, including their ranges, are known. The Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) team is collaborating on a project for genetic testing of dolphins in temperate and cold waters of the North Atlantic, notably to determine whether distinct populations exist for white-sided and white-beaked dolphins.

When they’re highly active and leaping out of the water, harbour porpoises are occasionally mistaken for dolphins. They usually give the impression that they are “rolling” at the water surface. Sometimes they come to a complete stop and rest for a few moments. They look like pieces of driftwood until a quick snap of their tail sets them in motion again. In winter, they are believed to move out to sea to avoid the ice. However, an analysis of by-catch suggests that some individuals might even winter in the Estuary. Since the beginning of December, a number of porpoises have been observed on the North Shore, notably in the sectors of Les Bergeronnes, Les Escoumins and Franquelin.

Observation of the Week - 16/12/2016

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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