Almost five days on the water and some 250 nautical miles covered in the Gaspé-Percé sector from June 30 to July 5.

The few large whales present were not offshore, but rather in and near Gaspé Bay. They were not numerous. In these five days, I documented the presence of three fin whales, two humpbacks and a half-dozen minke whales. The absence of the blue whale is still noteworthy and worrisome in my view.

It is even more disheartening to find one of these giants, a fin whale, dead and floating adrift off the coast of Cap d’Espoir. After calling and providing the GPS coordinates to the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network, I approached the carcass to document the case. Upon discovering rope marks on the animal, it became clear to me that it was most likely the victim of entanglement in fishing gear. The incident will need to be examined more closely by scientists, as a high percentage of whales are observed with rope marks, particularly on the peduncle and tail, not to mention a growing number of carcasses found.

For the eighth consecutive year, I observed the female H626, BBR (Gaspar), near Île Plat, the same place where I first saw her in 2008. Just as spry as ever, she proved it to me with a masterful stroke of her tail in the air. Last year, I had seen her breach (leap out of the water) near Cap Gaspé.
Three fin whales were feeding in Gaspé Bay, one of which was present during my last visit to this area on May 25. This is a fairly easy animal to identify thanks to its long scar caused by a rope wound running from the front of the dorsal fin and along the topside of the peduncle on the right side, and from the dorsal fin forward on the left side. It bears the number F428 in the MICS catalogue. In one of the photos I took, desquamation (peeling) marks can be seen, though these are temporary and therefore not useful for identifying the animal.

On the morning of July 5, in light of discouraging weather forecasts and a limited number of animals, I decided to end my mission, take my boat out of the water and go home. Just before doing so, I received a call from a local cruise boat captain informing me of a humpback whale spout in the bay. So I decided to postpone my return to shore to go and document this animal.  It was a small humpback, which at first glance could be mistaken for Aramis given the underside of its jet black tail, though MICS specialist Christian Ramp has not been able to provide a match just yet. Based on its size, this animal is probably quite young. A helpful tip from this captain and a stroke of luck that I had not yet turned in, as it is always quite gratifying to log new individuals into the MICS database.

As soon as I got home, the same captain informed me that three other humpbacks had shown up in the bay. Three animals which were familiar and regular in the area. That’s always the way it goes: the whales seem to wait for me to leave before making their appearance.

Field Notes - 10/7/2015

René Roy

René Roy is an amateur cetologist who is passionate about the sea and whales; he resides in Pointe-au-Père, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region. For the past few years, he has undertaken photo-identification expeditions for the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS), mainly in the Gaspé, with a research permit. He also volunteers for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network. More pictures can be seen on Facebook.

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