Athéna (1973-2018)


ligne décoration

Adopted by Collectively

  • ID number


  • Sex


  • Year of birth

    1973 (death in 2018)

  • Known Since


Distinctive traits

Athéna can be recognized at first glance by her deep scar with a tooth-like outline on her right flank. From the left side, the small gashes as well as the broad notch in the middle of the dorsal crest are used to identify her.

Right side, 1992
Left side, 1995
Left side, 1995
Right side, 2005
Left side, 2005
Left side, 2012
Right side, 2012
Right side, 2018

Life history

When we first encountered Athéna in 1989, she was already all white. Her age is thus difficult to establish with certainty. Belugas fade from gray to white in colour between the ages of 12 and 16. We can thus affirm that Athéna was born around or before 1975. Belugas can live to be 60 or even 80 years old. Athéna may have been born in 1950!

A regular visitor to the mouth of the Saguenay, Athéna can be easily recognized thanks to a deep scar on her left flank. This marking would make her one of the most familiar belugas to our Tadoussac-based research team. With the exception of 1990, she has been observed every summer. All in all, nearly one hundred encounters!

Her size and her associations lead us to believe that Athéna is a female. In their summer range, females form large communities in which they tend to newborns and young. These communities are faithful to traditional territories and exchanges between them are uncommon.

Athéna belongs to the same Saguenay community as DL1757, Griffon, DL0829 and Slash (who died in 2013). Associations between females of the same community are not stable, however. They may vary depending on the females’ reproductive status and whether or not they are pregnant or accompanied by a calf.

Over the years, Athéna has been seen accompanied by very young belugas. It is difficult however to establish mother-calf relationships with certainty. Eventually, once we’ve performed a biopsy, Athéna’s DNA will reveal all the details of her family tree.

In July 2018, Athéna was found dead. Her carcass was sent for a complete necropsy at the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. The complete results of her necropsy are yet to be published.

Observations history in the Estuary


Years in which the animal was not observed Years in which the animal was observed

Latest news

On the Saguenay River, the Bleuvet is sailing near Anse à la Boule under mostly cloudy skies. Waves were at least a half a metre high on account of the wind. Between two waves, we manage to locate a herd of about fifteen individuals within which is a single newborn. The belugas are practically treading water as they slowly make their way upstream against the current. In a group of two adults and four gray juveniles, we recognize Athéna. Also, not very far from her is the female Pacalou, a long-time acquaintance of our team. Despite the waves, we manage to take a biopsy from one of the animals in the herd. The swell becomes stronger, and the belugas disappear in the waves. We leave Anse à la Boule, happy to have recognized Athéna and to have been able to biopsy an animal!

The summer of 2016 – our 32nd season at sea with the belugas – was once again rich in encounters and surprises. Amongst other sightings, we saw Athéna at least eight times! Similar to last season, she was observed several times in groups of females and juveniles. However, we were unable to identify a newborn at her side.

September 19, 2016, that morning, Athéna was at the mouth of the Saguenay in the company of about forty other individuals. We see belugas of all colours: white, gray and brown. This herd consists of adults, juveniles and three newborns. We also recognize Blanchon, the oldest known living female in our family album! The animals are quietly heading up the Fjord. We decide to get a jump start and head toward Baie Sainte-Marguerite, the usual terminus for belugas in the Saguenay. However, the herd lingers for a long time at Anse à la Boule, downstream of the bay, and we wind up joining them there. We attempt a biopsy on one of the animals in the herd… bull’s eye! It’s still early and we hope to take more samples since we’re in the last week of biopsy collection to determine the proportion of pregnant females.

This summer, Athéna was observed six times… maybe even more, as we might have crossed paths with her without immediately recognizing her. On several occasions, she was accompanied by newborns. Our observations did not allow us however to confirm whether or not any of these calves were her own. Below is an account of one of these encounters.

August 2, 2015: Athéna is swimming in a herd of about 80 individuals consisting of adults and young, in close proximity to Pointe Rouge at the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord. The herd is lazily working its way up the Fjord. The encounter is cut short by thunder and fog, but we have just enough time to identify one of Athéna’s regular companions, Céline, accompanied by her second-year calf. Although Athéna is rarely observed with a newborn or a second-year calf at her side, she is never too far from young belugas. In light of her age and size, we are beginning to suspect that she is a sort of matriarch.

In the summer of 2013, Athéna was observed on three occasions, each time in the Saguenay River. In the most recent encounter, at around 10 AM on September 15, Athéna is with some twenty adults and young in Baie Sainte-Marguerite. She is swimming in the company of Miss Frontenac and Céline, two other females of the Saguenay community. Shortly after we spot them, the herd sets course downriver. Around 11:50, they pause for a few minutes in Anse Saint-Étienne where they engage in a behaviour observed often in this cove: they swim about in all directions with no apparent pattern and become restless at the water’s surface.

The estuary of Baie Sainte-Marguerite is the belugas’ terminus in the Saguenay Fjord. Although they sometimes swim up the Fjord as far as Saint-Fulgence, the majority of their movements in the Saguenay are limited to the downriver portion between Tadoussac and Baie Sainte-Marguerite.


Athena was adopted in November 2015
Thanks to donations from over 100 individuals, beluga DL0030 has been adopted. The name selected is “Athena”, which was proposed by several sponsors.

Noémie Roy, Mathilde Simard et les étudiant(e)s du Collège Nouvelles Frontières de Gatineau
Les bélugas sont des créatures inspirantes. En les protégeant, nous espérons pouvoir être inspirés par leur beauté encore

Laura Raimondeau
En l’honneur/au nom de Melman.
Merci pour vos actions. Je suis avec attention les nouvelles de la population de bélugas du St Laurent. J’espère lire encore longtemps de leur nouvelle et revenir les voir dans le futur.

La Troupe Faunique
La troupe faunique, initiated by Karine Bélair, participated in the collective adoption of DL0030.
Depuis toujours, je suis attirée par la mer. Tout ce qui y vit me fascine! Les baleines me font rêver simplement à les regarder. L’été, je me rends à l’embouchure du Fjord pour les observer. Je souhaite comme une enfant voir un dos blanc faire surface et je m’émerveille quand il surgit. Les bélugas sont le symbole de la blancheur, de la pureté. Ils sont sociables, intelligents et enjoués. Ce sont d’admirables qualités. Pour en savoir plus

Catherine Shwabb

Claudette St-Pierre
Propose le nom “Miss Percé”.

Connor Smith
Connor, âgé de 6 ans, a versé ses économies pour l’adoption collective de DL0030 !

Les visiteurs du Centre d’interprétation des mammifères marins (CIMM) de Tadoussac!

Violaine Goizet
En l’honneur/au nom de Melissa.
Merci! Il s’agit d’un petit don mais qui vient du fond du coeur! Je propose Indiana comme prénom!

Marie-Pier Boucher
Vote pour le nom d’Athéna!

Camille Marsolier

Line Ouellet et les yogis du Relais-Yoga de Gatineau:
Marie, Mia, Suzanne, Charline, Madeleine, Christine, Daniel et Philippe.Ils proposent le nom de Thalassa.

Brigitte Hannequin

Clémence Goyens
Une part de béluga nommé Athéna pour Renée et Dominique pour Noel!

Isabelle Leduc

Jean Descoteaux

Josée Bouchard
Merci de veiller sur nos bélugas et notre fleuve. Longue vie à DL0030 (j’ai hâte qu’elle ait un nom!)

La famille Bouchard-Tousignant
Même à partir des États-Unis, nous vous souhaitons longue vie !

La famille Mc Cready

Luce Chamard
À la mémoire de mon père Marius Chamard qui m’a fait connaître et aimer les bélugas.

Marie Julie Ouellet
Une passionnée par la défense des mammifères marins. Son nom préféré pour DL0030: Athéna.

Marilou Brouillet
J’ai à cœur le bien-être de ces êtres extraordinaires et je souhaite vivement contribuer à leur protection. Je vous remercie du fond du cœur de nous procurer cette opportunité unique d’adopter un béluga….être riche, je les adopterais tous!!!
À cause de sa cicatrice, je suggère de lui donner le nom d’Athéna, déesse de la guerre, de la sagesse.

Mylène Drouin
En l’honneur/au nom de Daniel et Mylène

Nicolas Coiffait

Pascale Malo
Un petit geste rempli d’espoir pour l’avenir de mes deux nièces, Annabelle et Alice Ouellet.

Serge Lepage
D’accord pour le nom d’Athena.