In recent weeks, it seems impossible to go out on the water without seeing at least a hundred or so gray seals! Although my primary job is to photo-identify large rorquals, I often take advantage of my time in the field to capture a few images of the river’s biodiversity.

When we found ourselves in the middle of a huge herd of feeding gray seals, I quickly snatched my camera to try to get a few shots. I focused on one seal particularly close to the boat. Shutter released, the familiar “click” of the camera caused the seal to briskly turn in my direction. We stared at one another. The moment lasted but a few seconds, but it seemed like an eternity. I was entranced by those huge intelligent eyes, which seemed to reflect a much deeper understanding than I thought possible.

Phoques gris © GREMM
Gray seals © GREMM

With a loud snort, the seal turned away and plunged into the water. I was spellbound. In biology, it is important to refrain from attributing human characteristics to the animals being studied. This is why we do not speak of joy, tenderness or sadness in scientific journals. Yet this encounter left me with a deep doubt. We might need to reconsider, after all this time, what we deem as a “human” feature.

Phoque gris © GREMM
Gray seal © GREMM

Jaclyn G. Fl.Jaclyn Aubin joined the GREMM team this year as a volunteer research assistant. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marine biology. As part of the photo-census program of large rorquals in the Marine Park, she collects photos and data on board tour boats. She also shares this information with the editorial team of Whales Online.

Field Notes - 15/8/2016

Collaboration Spéciale

Recommended articles

Exciting Observation that Sparks Bad Memories

On February 19, a senior officer of a cargo ship passing through the St. Lawrence Estuary photographed blue whales off…

|Field Notes 17/3/2021

With the Belugas… Seen and Measured from the Sky!

By Alexandre Bernier-Graveline and Mathieu Marzelière For GREMM’s research team, winter is usually synonymous with compiling, processing and analyzing images…

|Field Notes 25/2/2021

With the Belugas… Season Ends with First Snow

Field notes written in collaboration with Laurence Tremblay A field season full of surprises is coming to an end for…

|Field Notes 5/11/2020