The year 2017 is winding down. What were the major headlines from this year’s News from Afield?

Pilot whales, 2017 © René Roy

We remember the acrobatics of minke whales at the mouth of the Saguenay, as well as the comings and goings of humpbacks between the Gulf and the Estuary, including several mothers with their calves: Bad Chemistry, Tingley, La Souffleuse, Tic Tac Toe and Irisept – the first observation with a newborn in 20 years of encounters! – and the unexpected face-to-face meeting of our collaborator René Roy with over a dozen pilot whales off L’Anse-à-Valleau. Whales were not the only behemoths to make headlines: basking sharks were noted on numerous occasions in the Gulf. Schools of bluefin tuna were also spotted there as well as in the Marine Park area, where a naturalist and a captain happened upon them in high-flying prowess.

Obviously, research teams have not exactly been twiddling their thumbs. On August 20, at the mouth of the Saguenay, two GREMM research assistants are dumbfounded to see a narwhal swimming amongst a herd of belugas. Thanks to their photos, they are able to confirm that it is the same young narwhal discovered last summer in Trois-Pistoles. On October 4, the MICS team tallies 80 whales including 10 blues, 4 right whales, 30 fin whales and 30 humpbacks! In Sept-Îles, CERSI director Anik Boileau and INREST collaborator Jacques Gélineau continued their respective outings on the water in late fall, only to find that the sector is still “swarming” with life! Lastly, the Mériscope team, which has been photographing minke whales in the Estuary since 2001, has concluded that there appear to have been more young minke whales this summer in the Marine Park.

Greater scaup © Renaud Pintiaux

Getting back to this year’s final issue of News from Afield, our observers are unanimous: whether in Tadoussac, Franquelin, Sept-Îles, or Gaspé, whale sightings are rare or non-existent. A “glimmer of life” is reported, however, in Percé on December 16, with a large spout spotted west of Bonaventure Island. Additionally, seals are lying around here and there on the ice in Gaspé Bay. In Tadoussac Bay, our collaborator Renaud Pintiaux also reports a wide array of avifauna: black ducks, mallards, bufflehead, Barrow’s and common goldeneye, and greater scaup.

Although this past week was calm in terms of whales, that is not to say they are completely absent. It is not uncommon for certain regular observers to report sightings throughout the holiday season. Such is the case for our Franquelin-based collaborator who, in 2015, reported the presence of a fin whale just outside her home on New Year’s Eve.

In anticipation of the stories yet to be written for the year to come, the News from Afield team wishes all of its readers and collaborators a happy holiday season.

Observation of the Week - 21/12/2017

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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