Who are the fin whales of the Estuary?

Every summer, dozens of fin whales enter the Gulf of St. Lawrence and swim up the Estuary to the head of the Laurentian Channel. Numerous whale-watching vessels offer cruises to go out to meet these giants, representatives of a species of which little is yet known.


  • Fin Whales
  • Photo credit : © GREMM

To go through the looking glass

Since 1985, researchers have been navigating the waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary to photo-identify the fin whales that can be found there. Biopsy samples are also extracted from several of these animals in order to determine gender and gain clues to their kinship with other fin whales of the North Atlantic.

In short

More than one hundred different fin whales have been identified in the St. Lawrence Estuary since 1985. Several of these animals return every summer and spend from several days to several months in the rich waters of the Estuary. Over one third of them (35.5 percent) are classified as seasonal residents that return on average 3 years out of every 4. These individuals also remain in the area longest over the course of a given season. Other fin whales are less loyal to the Estuary and return either on a regular or occasional basis. The seventy five biopsy samples extracted to date have revealed that the Estuary herd is composed of equal parts male and female fin whales.

Project collaborators

Janie Giard, Shawn Thompson, Christiane Foley and Robert Michaud, GREMM


Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park, AML Cruises, Essipit Cruises, University of California in Berkeley, Mériscope, MICS