The stories coming in this week from our News from Afield observers are exciting; not only is the diversity impressive, but the behaviours being observed are simply awesome. “It’s a porpoise festival! Our idle boat found itself surrounded by crazed and highly active harbour porpoises, visibly curious by the presence of our craft!”, exclaims a cruise captain who is whale-watching between Tadoussac and Les Escoumins. Same impression in the Sept-Îles region, where the Centre de Recherche et d’Éducation de Sept-Îles (CERSI) identified fifty porpoises on July 24.

Harbour porpoise © GREMM
Harbour porpoise © GREMM

Minke whales appear to be more numerous than in previous weeks, according to a naturalist aboard a cruise ship sailing from a port of call on the south shore. He even claims to regularly observe a few smaller individuals, possibly young, off of Cacouna and Île Verte. This observer also described in his weekly report “three humpbacks diving in tandem at a specific place, followed by two fin whales surfacing at the same exact spot, swimming at full speed… most impressive!”

One of the six North Atlantic right whales observed July 24 2016 © MICS © MICS
One of the six North Atlantic right whales observed July 24 2016 © MICS © MICS

Meanwhile, the director of the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) reported the exceptional presence of six North Atlantic right whales at the western tip of Anticosti Island on July 24. Three whales were still in the area on July 27. This endangered species is not typically observed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but the number of sightings is unusually high this year. In Gaspé Bay, whale-watching cruise employees were also surprised by the passage of two right whales on July 20, practically hugging the coastline in a few metres of water. The MICS team enquired as to whether any blue whales were recently reported in the Estuary; indeed, a representative of this species was seen on July 27 off of Cap de Bon-Désir in Les Bergeronnes, perhaps even the same blue whale that had been spotted on a cruise off Les Escoumins two weeks earlier.

In the Percé area of the Gaspé Peninsula, individuals who were out at sea have recently been treated, in the words of one captain, to “behaviours worthy of National Geographic“! Humpback whales engaged in breaching, spyhopping, and slapping the water surface with their huge fins.

Observation of the Week - 28/7/2016

Josiane Cabana

Josiane Cabana served as Director for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network call centre from 2011 to 2018. When she’s not responding to cases of dead or vulnerable marine mammals, she likes to take the time to educate local residents on the threats faced by these animals. Biologist by training, she has been involved with the GREMM for more than 15 years, and always with the same undying passion!

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