Last week’s sightings article may have inspired some of you… One marine mammal enthusiast wrote to us that she even had a dream about whales! In Sept-Îles and Franquelin, even if the ice broke loose from the shores, no cetaceans or pinnipeds were observed. On the other side of the river, off the coast of Cap-des-Rosiers, an observer spots some movement: “A few seals offshore, on the ice floes. Otherwise it’s been rather quiet!” On the river near Les Escoumins, a group of three belugas was seen quietly swimming near the coast.
Under sunny skies in Tadoussac, a few mammals were able to briefly test the icy waters of the St. Lawrence. However, these were not cetaceans, pinnipeds, or even seabirds, but rather humans! As part of the Tadoussac Carnival, an activity called the “beluga baptism” took place on March 4. The brave men and women ran on the beach before fully immersing themselves. For this frigid dip, the presence of first responders and a heated tent ensured the safety of the activity. After all, humans aren’t suited for life in the water the way belugas are!
In marine mammal watching, patience is key, and extraordinary sightings do not happen overnight. Talk to any photographer, for whom the most dramatic pictures are often gleaned only after long hours, days or even months of waiting. They attempt to increase their odds with many an early morning wake-up call.
Similarly, scientists spend months planning, analyzing, coordinating and scheduling trips into the field. Unpredictable weather, technical issues or the behaviour of the whales themselves sometimes make the task more difficult, and the quality of observations is not always commensurate with the effort. Perseverance is required for anyone who wishes to make meaningful contributions to research.
In conservation, the winter season is not easy either. Time is split between compiling data and thinking about outreach activities. The quest for funding – the lifeblood of conservation – also eats up a lot of time, in addition to continuing to monitor the belugas and seals that spend their winters in the St. Lawrence.
Both in museums and in education, they’re gearing up for the tourist season. Job offers are posted in the papers and on social media as employers vie for the best available talent. Magical summer seasons that remain forever burned in our memories are just around the corner.
Others, whether they live in the mountains, farm country or in towns and cities far from the sea, are already organizing their summer holidays. They scour the websites of tourist organizations and dream of meeting endearing people, watching whales and connecting with nature.
For all these folks, the announcement of the enlargement of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park by the Legault and Trudeau governments is encouraging. Whether you’ve been tirelessly involved in marine mammal conservation for decades or are just discovering this field, this is very uplifting news. The largest marine protected area in the province helps safeguard the cetaceans and pinnipeds that inhabit it and it is hoped that its expansion will further enhance this protection.
Share your observations!
Have you seen any marine mammals in the St. Lawrence? Whether it’s a spout offshore or just a couple of seals, drop us a line and send your photos to [email protected]!