The past few days have been emotionally rich for observers along the St. Lawrence. First, the presence of a narwhal in the Estuary, seen near Trois-Pistoles on July 29 and then off Les Bergeronnes on August 9, took everyone by surprise! And the two right whales observed by visitors near Cap de Bon-Desir in Les Bergeronnes on August 6 were also unexpected. Also in the Estuary, other observers out at sea reported right whales on Sunday, August 7 near Île aux Pommes as well as in the Prince Shoal area on Thursday, August 11. These observations, however, were not confirmed by photos, nor were those of a strange-looking cetacean – resembling a beaked whale according to the naturalist – reported by a cruise off Les Escoumins on August 9.

Baleines noires de l'Atlantique Nord © Jean Lemire (archive)
North Atlantic right whales © Jean Lemire (archive)

In recent days, whale-watchers in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park (SSLMP) have been able to admire a group of six fin whales off of Île Verte. These behemoths are probably attracted by the abundance of food: sand lances according to studies conducted by the SSLMP team.

Cruise-goers in the Gaspé Peninsula have also had a lot to cheer about: minke whales, fin whales, humpbacks, porpoises and white-sided dolphins have been present in the area between Cap Gaspé and the cliffs of Forillon National Park, i.e. five different species of marine mammals! Moreover, humpbacks in the area have been regularly engaging in impressive behaviours such as breaches and fin slapping. The tourist season – and the whale season, too – is well underway in the Gaspé region, according to local residents. Identified humpbacks include Paloma, Chaplin, H777, Bolt, Fleuret and Quill.

Rorqual commun © GREMM
Fin whale © GREMM

It is in the Mingan region where cetaceans seem to be the most abundant. The sightings list of the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) reads like a whale lover’s dream: since August 3, about ten right whales have been observed, as have some forty fin whales, over 50 minke whales, 35 humpbacks and dozens of harbour porpoises. The research team admits that it lacks the time at sea to document all these animals.

We should point out that several observers have noted the absence of blue whales. The only recent sighting is that of a cruise employee who saw this giant of the seas in the area of the K54 buoy near Tadoussac on July 31.

Observation of the Week - 11/8/2016

Josiane Cabana

Josiane Cabana served as Director for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network call centre from 2011 to 2018. When she’s not responding to cases of dead or vulnerable marine mammals, she likes to take the time to educate local residents on the threats faced by these animals. Biologist by training, she has been involved with the GREMM for more than 15 years, and always with the same undying passion!

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