Bp942, or «Piton»

Distinctive traits

People in the whale-watching industry have nicknamed this fin whale “Piton” because of the slight protrusion on its left chevron – chevrons are the variably contrasting pale gray V-shaped markings that extend behind the blowhole and form different patterns in each individual. In the case of Bp942, the chevrons stand out clearly from its slate gray body, a diagnostic and useful characteristic for identifying the animal, since its dorsal fin is very indistinctive, without any particular shape or notches.

History

Bp942, nicknamed “Piton” due to the small protuberance near its left chevron, was first observed in 1999 and has been observed every year since 2010. In 2016, “Piton” was tagged by the GREMM-DFO team as part of the large rorqual-tagging project. 

From the bulletin Whale Portraits, July 28, 2017

A portrait written by Audrey Tawell-Thibert

Bp942, or “Piton”, July 17, 2017. Its indistinctive dorsal ridge is of little use for photo-identification. © GREMM

Faithful to the Estuary since 2010 and described in the latest edition of the Large Rorquals of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park catalogue, Bp942 was photo-ID’d by our research assistant in the vicinity of Les Escoumins on July 17. People in the whale-watching industry have nicknamed this fin whale “Piton”, which refers to the slight protrusion on its left chevron – chevrons are the variably contrasting pale gray V-shaped markings that extend behind the blowhole and form different patterns in each individual. In the case of Bp942, the chevrons stand out clearly from its slate gray body, a diagnostic and useful characteristic for identifying the animal, since its dorsal fin is very indistinctive, without any particular shape or notches.

Fin whales’ phenomenal swimming speed has earned them the moniker “greyhounds of the sea”: they can reach speeds of 40 km/h! Whether solo, in pairs or in groups of a few individuals, they are often seen racing through the water by whalewatchers and captains in the sector. Their unmatched speed is impressive, not to mention the splashes and powerful cannon-like spouts they produce.

Whale Oil Factory in Sept-Îles, circa 1910 © BAnQ (P6, S3, D4, P946)

 

 

In 2005, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) distinguished two subspecies of fin whales: southern hemisphere and northern hemisphere. The latter, to which Bp942 belongs, was designated “Special Concern” by COSEWIC in May 2005. The most recent estimates indicate, however, that the North Atlantic population is believed to be gradually recovering from the intensive hunting that fin whales faced in the past. In Canadian waters, this hunting ended in 1971; a Norwegian station operated out of Sept-Îles between 1905 and 1913, where oil was collected from the 75 or so rorquals (fin and blue whales) harpooned every year. However, the conservative status currently given to these whales is justified by the serious anthropogenic threats that they face today, including ship strikes, noise pollution and risks of entanglement in fishing gear.

Learn more:

Fin whale data sheet


From the newsletter Portrait de baleines, July 16, 2016

Bp942, nicknamed “Piton” due to the small protuberance near its left chevron, was first observed in 1999 and has been observed every year since 2010. Its dorsal fin does not have any noteworthy markings. It is best recognized by its highly contrasting chevron and the small bump on its left side. Piton is featured in the latest edition of the Large Rorqual Catalogue.

Last season, Piton was tagged by the GREMM-DFO team as part of the large rorqual tagging project, in partnership with Parks Canada. From 14:21 on August 12, 2015 to 05:40 the following morning, a telemetric tag tracked the animal during its activities. Recovered at 08:35 on the morning of August 13, the tag allowed the team to learn what had taken place underwater. From the time the tag was placed until 00:30, Piton was surface feeding between zero and 25 metres. Then, for one hour, the whale performed two V-shaped exploratory dives between 90 and 115 metres. From 01:30 to 04:00, the animal was feeding and resting at the surface. Finally, just before the tag fell off, Piton was feeding in deeper waters, making U-shaped dives between 80 and 140 metres. The aim of this research project is to document the diets of these whales: when, where and what types of prey.

The 5th season of this project has just gotten underway. The team has already launched its research vessel Bleuvet to attempt to track these individuals under the water surface. The targeted species are mainly fin and humpback whales, as well as the minke whale. Two or three times a week, from Tuesday to Thursday, you may have the chance to see the team at work on the water!