From Montréal to Sept-Îles and Gaspésie, there’s been a lot of talk about minke whales this week. While these small harbingers of spring are greeted with enthusiasm in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and along the shores of the estuary, that is not the case for individuals when they venture outside their normal range.

Two minke whales are currently in the Port of Montréal, an unusual place for this species, which is cause for concern for many of our readers. The Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network (QMMERN) was alerted to the presence of the first minke whale on Sunday evening, and has been on site since Monday to document and monitor the situation. Whales Online allows you to follow the minke whale in real time, and answers your questions about this event here.

But, fortunately, minke whales are not only being observed in Montréal! Cetologist Jacques Gélineau mentions seeing one in the Sept-Îles region, while photographer Renaud Pintiaux has documented several in Les Bergeronnes over the past week. In the Côte-Nord region, other observers also report having seen them in Les Escoumins, in Franquelin, and from the sand dunes of Tadoussac. A local resident observing them from the docks in Les Escoumins exclaims: “For over an hour, at least three minke whales were very active near the shore. What a privilege when one of them shows the pink underside of its mouth while feeding at the surface!”

In Gaspésie, our contacts have been observing minke whales at L’Anse-aux-Griffons and Grande-Vallée. Lastly, an observer from the Magdalen Islands spotted at least three individuals near Havre-Aubert. Perhaps minke whales are more plentiful in the St. Lawrence this year? If so, a ‘baby boom’ might explain why younger members of the population have been more daring in their quest for new territory…

What about other kinds of whales?

Minke whales are not the only cetaceans making appearances. For the past week, a Sainte-Irénée resident has been observing small groups of belugas from her home. Another resident in the region saw a handful at Cap-aux-Oies. A few white backs are also observed off Cap de Bon-Désir and off the dunes of Tadoussac. The GREMM team was also delighted to see a few belugas pass by the Pointe-Noire Interpretation and Observation Centre in Baie-Sainte-Catherine: the first whales of the season for some of us!

For one of our observers, the week has been rich in cetaceans. After spending the day unsuccessfully scanning for whales in Tadoussac and Essipit, she and her partner went to Cap de Bon-Désir. Around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, their patience was rewarded and they were treated to an excellent evening of observations: one minke whale (yes, another one!) and eight fin whales near the rocks, a sighting made all the more special by the fact that they were the only ones to witness the show.

In Les Escoumins, an observer is delighted to see a series of splashes in the distance, which she attributes to a breaching humpback whale. Humpbacks and fin whales seem to have made a date to meet near Prince Shoal off Tadoussac.

 

For other observers, the week was punctuated by porpoises and dolphins. A resident of Franquelin witnesses an offshore stampede as a large group of cetaceans – probably dolphins – work their way up the river. The first harbour porpoises of the year were spotted in Les Bergeronnes and Tadoussac.

Let’s not forget about the seals!

Spring is also seal season! About fifty harp seals were observed in Baie Sainte-Marguerite between Port-Cartier and Sept-Iles, a sign that the capelin have arrived, according to Jacques Gélineau. Harbour seals were also seen in large numbers between Saint-Ulric and Saint-Félicité on the south shore. In Gaspésie, grey seals and harbour seals have been present in the Rivière-au-Renard sector, as well as at Pointe St-Pierre, Petit Gaspé, Sandy Beach and L’Anse-aux-Cousins.

 

Of course, even if minke whales are in the spotlight this week, diversity is the wealth of the St. Lawrence!

Have you seen a seal or a whale?

Share your observations and photos by writing to us at  [email protected] or on our Facebook page.

Observation of the Week - 12/5/2022

Chloé Warren

Chloe is the coordinator for « Portrait de baleines » and a writer for Whales Online since May 2022. Originally for Vancouver Island, she started in the field of marine biology as a marine naturalist before joining the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) as a Research and Education Assistant. She believes education and science communication is the best way to raise awareness on environmental issues, promote stewardship, and encourage action.

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