At Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, some thirty fin whales are present, both “known” faces and newcomers. Are they easy to spot? More or less, as there is a thick shroud of fog as well. To succeed, we must use our ears to look for the whales by listening for their blows. In fact, it was the loud blow of a blue whale that alerted an employee of a Gaspé-based cruise operator to the presence of an individual of this species off of Cap Gaspé. Some observers can even occasionally estimate the distance of the animal according to the time elapsed between the appearance of the spout, suspended in the air for several seconds, and the sound of the blow. At the Cap de Bon-Désir site in Les Bergeronnes, visitors and naturalists observed a blue whale repeatedly on July 27. They were witness to its enormous size, bluish and mottled skin, small dorsal fin and powerful spout expelled from its large blowhole measuring about 40-50 cm.

Fin whales are also more numerous in the Estuary. Individuals recognized include Orion, Bp913, Bp945, Bp918, Cayman and Bp910. The animals were gathered on July 30 near the Prince Shoal Lighthouse off Tadoussac. Some of them were surface feeding. Bp945, tracked by the Fisheries and Oceans Canada-GREMM team with a radio tag placed on its back on July 29, appeared at the water surface turned on its side and its mouth agape. Near the surface there was krill, and not far below, sand lances.

The Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) team also noted this week the red feces produced by whales having eaten….krill! Excrement produced after consuming fish is generally more brownish in colour. Whale feces also plays a role in the stability of the marine ecosystem. Indeed, whales feed in the water column and discharge their excrement at the surface, thereby recycling nutrients and creating a beneficial “whale pump”.

Father downstream, in the Blanc-Sablon area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, “hundreds of humpback whales have been present since about July 10,” points out Richard Sears, MICS researcher and founder, as well as dolphins, minke and fin whales. Whales like never before!

Observation of the Week - 31/7/2015

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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