Better understanding for better protection

Robert Michaud’s relationship with the whales of the St. Lawrence all started when he was hired to work as a naturalist aboard the first boats that started taking tourists out to see the whales off Tadoussac in the early 1980s. What had started out as a summer job turned into a career. Surrounded by acolytes as passionate as himself, he decided to found the Groupe de recherche et d’éducation sur les mammifères marins (GREMM) in 1985. His goal: study the whales to better understand and better protect them. He set out to use his newly acquired understanding to feed the public fascination for whales and to heighten awareness of the importance of protecting the marine environment.

The research that he was to accomplish with the GREMM was to deal mainly with the behavioural ecology of large rorqual whales and the impact of tourism. In 1987 he co-founded the St. Lawrence National Institute of Ecotoxicology (SLNIE) with : Pierre Béland and is presently in charge of a long term study on the St. Lawrence beluga whale population. He completed a masters degree at Université Laval on the distribution of St. Lawrence belugas and has since undertaken a doctoral degree with Hal Whitehead at Dalhousie University to study the social organisation of the beluga.

Along with his research work, Robert Michaud remains actively involved in the fields of education and conservation. He is coordinator of the : Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network. He actively participates in sustainable development and responsible whale-watching practices with : Eco-Whale Alliance. He contributed to the creation of the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre (CIMM) in Tadoussac in 1991, gives annual conferences, and participates in news reports and interviews with various media from Canada and around the world. He continues, with the help of his team, to put together education and public awareness projects like the Whales On Line web site.

Is Robert Michaud a busy man? Certainly! However, he still takes time for those who first helped him make his dreams a reality: field work with the whales and the contact with the public. What is the secret to his accomplishments? Teamwork, devotion and the conviction that his work truly promotes better understading for better protection.