This week in the St. Lawrence, giants of all colours amazed young and old observers alike. From grey seals to blue whales – not to mention white-sided dolphins – a wide range of marine mammals crisscrossed the cold waters of the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence over the past few days!

A blue apparition

A few observers gathered at Cap de Bon-Désir and the Marine Environment Discovery Centre were treated to a big surprise last Sunday when Crinkle, a female blue whale, emerged from the waters of the St. Lawrence at this location. This regular visitor to the estuary made more than one person happy that morning! The passage of a large tuna at the same location was the icing on the cake on this eventful morning. The previous day, two other blue whales, including the well-known Chameau, also brought smiles to many faces when they were spotted between Tadoussac and Les Escoumins!

Crinckle's skin is distinctive © GREMM
Chameau got his name from the two humps on his back © GREMM

In the same area, a number of other marine mammals have been present in recent days: a fin whale and plenty of minke whales, not to mention numerous harbour porpoises and grey seals observed from shore and on the water. On August 19, the humpback whale Galaxy even spent some time playing in algaeon the water surface, a longtime marine mammal observer reported in amazement. Last week also marked the return of Irisept to the estuary, a humpback whale first identified in the gulf in 1997!

Black-and-white cetaceans

Passing through the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord throughout the week were minke whales, harbour seals and clusters of belugas. A solitary humpback whale was seen by a few lucky observers in Tadoussac Bay on the morning of August 23. A few hours later, a large whale was spotted near Baie Sainte-Marguerite, and the next morning, the presence of a humpback was reported a little farther down the fjord, at Anse de Roche. At this same spot, a group of about thirty belugas passed through on August 18.

In Baie Sainte-Marguerite, belugas have been reported every day over the past week. “Between 20 and 50 individuals, depending on the day,” says a GREMM drone pilot on site for the Window on Belugas project. Sometimes accompanied by calves, the groups reportedly even ventured upstream as far as Île Saint-Louis! Another small group of about five belugas made it to Saint-Irénée, according to a resident of the région.

Two-tone whales in Gaspé waters

Gaspésie also saw its share of marine mammals this week! Early in the week, humpback whales were seen breaching in Gaspé Bay, much to the delight of observers! Fin whales, minke whales, harbour porpoises and Atlantic white-sided dolphins – occasionally accompanied by grey and harbour seals – were also seen frolicking in the area. On August 21, two minke whales were seen off Grande-Vallée while a little farther west, it was one humpback and four minke whales near Les Îlets and three minke whales off Matane that caught observers by surprise!

The same day, an avid kayaker encountered several harbour seals near Rivière-du-Loup. “I don’t think the sighting is anything special, it’s just rare that an observer passes through the area in a boat or a kayak!” he exclaims. Off the coast of Cacouna, a dozen or so belugas passed by, while a few grey seals were seen from the Rivière-du-Loup marina by an observer from the Marine Mammal Observation Network (MMON).

Colour in the Mingan sector

“Numerous minke whales, roughly a hundred grey seals north of Île Nue, a porbeagle shark and several porpoises” were all recently observed near Mingan, enthusiastically explains a local whale enthusiast. Humpbacks, blue whales and minke whales were also identified in the area by the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS). Several Atlantic white-sided dolphins, white-beaked dolphins and grey seals were also seen swimming in these waters over the past few days.

In the vicinity of Sept-Îles, two humpback whales were seen passing through early in the week, and a very special observation was made here by the Sept-Îles Education and Research Centre (CERSI):a white cross hydromedusa, a very rare species in the region! Near the shores of Franquelin, it’s minke whales, seals and harbour porpoises that are being talked about, points out one resident of the region.

Whether black, white, grey or even blue, we never grow tired of admiring these marine mammals from one end of the St. Lawrence to the other!

Weekly sighting map

These data were reported by our network of observers. The observations give a rough idea of the presence of whales, but do not in any way represent the true distribution of cetaceans in the St. Lawrence. Enjoy!

Click on the whale or seal icons to see the species, number of individuals observed, additional information or photos of the sighting. To zoom in on the map, click on the icon in the upper right corner. The map works well on Chrome and Firefox, but less so on Safari.

To display the list of observations, click on the icon in the upper left corner.

Care to share your observations and contribute to citizen science? Use the marine mammal sighting entry tool.

Observation of the Week - 25/8/2022

Odélie Brouillette

Odélie Brouillette joined the GREMM team as a writer and naturalist in 2022 and has been back since winter 2023 as a project manager in science popularization. Recently graduated in biology, she has always been fascinated by the marine environment and whales and hopes to contribute to their protection through awareness and popularization.

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