First, you must spot them!

Scanning the water with the naked eye is the best option for covering large swaths of sea. This way, you can use your binoculars to take a closer look if you see anything unusual. Most often, a plume of mist above the water surface from the animal’s exhalation is the first sign that a large whale is present. This plume is called a spout. In clear weather, such plumes can be visible up to several kilometres away! Once you’ve spotted a spout, keep looking in the same direction since you might see the back of this huge animal. As mentioned earlier, every species is different, as is its behaviour. Depending on the type of whale you’ve spotted and what it is doing, you will be able to observe a few more spouts before the animal takes a long, deep dive.

Tip: Stay alert! Every whale must resurface to breathe again and, after a deep dive, the animal can resurface at any place and at any moment. Cetaceans are capable of travelling great distances during their dives.

Now, what species am I seeing?

Minke whale

  • medium size (6 to 9 m)
  • black back
  • spout barely or not at all visible
  • curved dorsal fin visible almost as soon as the animal appears
  • we usually see the blowhole at the same time as the dorsal fin
  • ne montre pas la queue quand il plonge
  • does not show its tail when it dives
  • often dynamic: leaps and rolls, clearly exposing white or pink parts. A breaching minke whale can be distinguished from a humpback by its smooth fins.

Fin whale

  • large size (18 to 21 m)
  • back almost black
  • powerful and often visible spout (4 to 6 m high)
  • dorsal fin clearly visible when the animal dives
  • generally does not show its tail
  • sometimes alone or in pairs, often in groups of three to six individuals in tight formations
  • we first see the spout, then the blowhole, then the back and then the dorsal fin

Blue whale

  • large size (20 to 25 m), the biggest of all
  • bluish-gray or light gray back
  • powerful spout that can be seen and heard up to several kilometres away (6+ m high)
  • wide blowhole forming a bump on its head
  • tiny dorsal fin
  • typically solitary, but occasionally in pairs
  • approximately 15% of St. Lawrence blue whales show their tails when diving
  • you can count few seconds before seing the end of the back

Humpback whale

  • medium size (11 to 13 m) between that of a minke whale and that of a fin whale
  • black back
  • balloon-shaped spout (nearly as wide as high), may reach 3 m high.
  • small dorsal fin on a hump
  • generally shows black and white tail when it dives
  • often dynamic: breaching, lobtailing, slapping of pectoral fins (very long, white or black)

North Atlantic right whale

  • medium size (10 to 17 m) between that of a minke whale and that of a fin whale
  • black back and yellow, white or orangish callosities on upper head
  • V-shaped spout (two very distinct jets, the orifices of the double blowhole being widely spaced apart), 5 m high.<
  • no dorsal fin
  • no ventral grooves
  • the right whale is a very slow swimmer

Sperm whale

  • medium size (11 to 18 m) between that of a minke whale and that of a fin whale
  • gray, black or brownish back
  • distinctly angled spout (the blowhole is offset well to the left side of the head), 3 m high.
  • bump-shaped dorsal fin that appears at the same time as the spout
  • sometimes shows its dark, triangular-shaped tail when it dives


  • small size (3 to 5 m)
  • brief surface appearances, easily mistaken for cresting waves
  • adult entirely white
  • spout barely or not at all visible
  • often in groups
  • CAUTION! It is forbidden to approach a beluga. If a beluga approaches your watercraft, you should move away from it as quickly and calmly as possible.

Harbour porpoise

  • smallest whale of the St. Lawrence (1.5 to 2 m)
  • dark back
  • spout audible but not visible
  • large triangular-shaped dorsal fin
  • observed alone or in small groups
  • difficult to observe except in very calm weather
  • swims quickly and without splashing


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