How to recognize them?

Whales live their lives between two worlds. When they surface, they reveal but a small portion of their bodies. Learn to identify the most common species of the St. Lawrence with the following tips.

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
  • 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

Blue whale

  • large size (20 to 25 m)
  • 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

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)


  • 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

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


Consult the data sheets to learn more about these species and several others!