Jawbreaker

From the bulletin Portrait de baleines, August 27, 2015

Jawbreaker is a female blue whale well known to the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS). Although she has been observed a number of times in the Estuary, she has never been seen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Jawbreaker is recognized by the white spot on the underside of her tail.

BLV090825_1087However, as she is not the only blue whale to show this trait, we must rely on other criteria such as the pigmentation pattern of her back to confirm her identity. Also, her dorsal fin is light in colour, almost shiny. Only 15-18% of blue whales raise their tails out of the water when they dive. Jawbreaker is one of those individuals. This season, numerous employees of the whale-watching industry and visitors were able to observe this behemoth off the coast of Les Escoumins. Rare and fragile, the blue whale is an endangered species, having been decimated by rampant hunting in the North Atlantic that ended in 1955. In the Marine Park, an observation distance of 400 m must be respected.

MICS has been studying blue whales in the St. Lawrence since 1979. In the Northwest Atlantic, from the northern Davis Strait (between Greenland and Canada) to Bermuda, along the east coast, its researchers have identified over 475 individuals. This year, a big breakthrough in blue whale research was made. An individual photo-ID’d in 1984 in the St. Lawrence was found 30 years later in the Azores and again in the St. Lawrence, in the Gaspé, in 2015. This first ever documented sighting of a blue whale migration on an east-west axis, between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the eastern part of the North Atlantic puts things into perspective. Measuring 25 m long and travelling hundreds or even thousands of kilometres, these giants live on a completely different scale.
Learn more:

Blue whale data sheet

Author: Camille Bégin Marchand

 

Taken from the newsletter Portrait de baleines, July 25, 2013

Jawbreaker is one of the blue whales that is particularly fond of the St. Lawrence Estuary: although well known to MICS researchers, she has never been seen in the Gulf. She usually shows her tail when diving, a personality trait that she shares with approximately 15-18% of individuals of her species photographed in the St. Lawrence.

Since the beginning of summer, the GREMM has counted at least four different blue whales in the Marine Park, including Jawbreaker. The latter has been observed from time to time since June 25. Nomadic, blue whales are constantly on the move in search of better patches of krill, small planktonic crustaceans that congregate in immense “clouds” driven by currents, tides, and underwater relief.

Why “Jawbreaker”? It seems that the origin of her nickname has been lost over the years! After being consulted, the MICS team believes that there may be a connection with the hard candy “jawbreakers”, or else with an aggressive behaviour that she might have shown toward other blue whales.

The blue whale is a species at risk; its Northwest Atlantic population is unknown, but it is considered unlikely that it exceeds 250 adults. Disturbance by boats may be detrimental to its feeding. In the Marine Park, these animals enjoy enhanced protection: boats are required to stay at least 400 m away. Outside of the Marine Park, member companies of the Eco-Whale Alliance have undertaken to abide by these same limits to better protect them.

 


Blue whale Jawbreaker in the Estuary in 2013 © GREMM

Learn more:

Blue whale data sheet