…emphasizes a Percé-based captain, referring to this recent week of observations. Île Bonaventure is surrounded by numerous marine mammals: hundreds of gray seals, ten or so minke whales, about fifteen fin whales and seven humpbacks. On September 15, this captain crosses paths with a right whale. This large, plump whale is observed in the St. Lawrence especially between July and September. Most observations are made in the southern part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, specifically in the Gaspé, off the coast of Percé. However, since 1998, more and more observations are being reported, as was the case this summer, in the Magdalen Islands, Chaleur Bay, the Lower North Shore and the Estuary.

In the Gaspé region, as these lines are being written, a whale-watching crew member is undertaking his traditional morning watch and spots over twenty large, differently-shaped spouts between Cap-des-Rosiers and Cap-Gaspé. He informs his team, who is getting ready to leave the wharf with passengers. These tourists would later discover six fin whales. The same morning, the aforementioned individual observes from afar a group travelling very quickly. He hesitates between a herd of dolphins and a school of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Like dolphins, tuna are powerful swimmers that can reach speeds of up to 30 km/h. Dolphins in comparison can reach velocities of between 25 and 45 km/h, but their cruising speed is closer to the order of 15 km/h. Lastly that morning, hundreds of white-sided dolphins went racing by. The day before this observation, a school of bluefin tuna is observed in Gaspé Bay, as was an ocean sunfish. The ocean sunfish, also called common mola, is a slow swimmer which probably moves less than 5 km/h. This flat fish has huge dorsal and anal fins and no tail.
It measures one to two metres and can weigh as much as a beluga, i.e. about one tonne. Perhaps it is because they move so slowly that these fish are covered with numerous parasites.

Unknown humpback seen last week

Lastly, in the Estuary, four blue whales and three fin whales are observed near Les Escoumins. Even if no humpback whale was reported, a small individual was spotted the week before. When it went to dive, its tail barely skimmed the water surface without ever really being raised. For the time being, this humpback remains unidentified.

Observation of the Week - 21/9/2015

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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