They appear in the form of black bubbles at the water surface. Adult harp seals give the impression of wearing a black hood and have a silvery coat with a broad, harp-shaped black band on their back, hence their name. Dozens of these seals were sighted in Gallix in the Côte-Nord region on January 17. Highly social, these animal gathered by the hundreds off Sainte-Felicite in the Gaspé, and near Rimouski in the Bas-Saint-Laurent. At Notre-Dame-du-Portage, opposite Île au Lièvres in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, hundreds of harp seals were gathered near the ice on New Year’s Day. The next day the ice was gone… and so were the seals. The life of these seals follows the rhythm of the ice. They generally arrive in the St. Lawrence concurrently with the formation of ice, and head back to the Arctic when it disappears. Moreover, their scientific name Pagophilus groenlandicus means “ice lover”, in reference to their habitat.

Speaking of ice, a question arose amongst observers at the mouth of the Saguenay on the afternoon of January: are those ice floes, or the backs of belugas? This time, they were indeed belugas, confirms a GREMM team member following them closely with his binoculars from the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre in Tadoussac! In Franquelin (Côte-Nord region), the appearance of a blue whale caught the attention of our colleague on January 12. The giant dove for about 20 minutes before reappearing at the surface. A resident of Grande-Grave in the Gaspé observed a minke whale on January 1… a first for her, considering the fact that she was standing in her cross-country skis!

Observation of the Week - 22/1/2016

Marie-Sophie Giroux

Marie-Sophie Giroux joined the GREMM in 2005 until 2018. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and a diploma in Environmental Consulting. As Lead Naturalist, she oversees and coordinates the team working at the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre and writes for Whales Online and Whale Portraits. She loves to share “whale stories” with visitors to the CIMM and readers alike.

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