A first calf for Gaspar, August 2nd, 2019

Gaspar was seen with her first calf in the Gaspé Peninsula in early July, then in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. Female humpback whales reach sexual maturity around their sixth year of life. So why hadn’t a calf ever been documented for Gaspar, who is nearly 15 years old? It’s hard to say. Bringing a pregnancy to term requires sufficient food to meet the mother’s energy needs and those of the baby. Stressful situations, such as entanglement, interfere with the ability to reproduce. Perhaps Gaspar simply hadn’t found a male. But now that we know Gaspar is fertile, maybe we’ll see her with a new calf in two or three years.

Taken from the bulletin Portrait de baleines, August 24, 2018

Gaspar is back in the Marine Park! This humpback whale has been known since 2006 and is recognizable by its under-tail pattern. On her right lobe, one can make out the shape of a ghost, which is where she gets her name. Another distinctive feature is her dorsal fin, which shows a pronounced curve and a pointy tip. In the Gaspé and Mingan Archipelago regions, she is nicknamed BBR, or “Boom Boom River”, the local name of the municipality of Rivière-au-Tonnerre, where she spent her first summer. A the time, the team from the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) identified her together with her mother Helmet (H166). Since 2006, Gaspar has visited the St. Lawrence Estuary every year. She is now 13 years old.

Humpbacks and fin whales seem to be particularly abundant this summer! As for blue whales, captains and observers at sea have been reporting that they have not been staying long in the Marine Park. This week, however, several big blues were observed, including at least one with a calf, the famous Jaw-Breaker. Of course, every season is different! During the feeding period, the presence or absence of whales is influenced by the distribution of food and prey. During the months of June and July, numerous observations of capelin were reported in the St. Lawrence Estuary. Like herring, capelin is a forage species, which means it is not at the top of the food chain. It therefore serves as food for other species. These species feed on krill, one of the blue whale’s favourite foods. This species seeks immense plumesof these small planktonic crustaceans to feed on. Could the strong presence of capelin schools this season have contributed to smaller concentrations of krill in mid-summer? Might they have been responsible for the unusually brief incursions of blue whales in the region? For sure, these schools of capelin were appreciated by humpbacks, which prefer fish over plankton.

Taken from the bulletin Portrait de baleines, August 6, 2016

 Gaspar, known as Boom Boom River (BBR) in the Gaspé, is recognizable by the colour pattern on the underside of her tail. Her right lobe shows the shape of the famous ghost to which she owes her name. Also, her dorsal fin is curved and pointed in shape. Gaspar was observed in the Marine Park on July 29, 2016. Born in 2005, she followed her mother Helmet, a regular visitor to the waters off the coast of Blanc Sablon and the Mingan region. She first visited the Estuary alone the year after she was born. She has been observed there annually ever since. Gaspar is one of the young humpback explorers who have adopted the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. She has been photo-identified by the Mingan Islands Cetaceans Society (MICS) and is part of their humpback whales identification catalogue.

Gaspar is a humpback whale, which is one of the species targeted by visitors. To spot humpbacks, one must watch offshore from land-based sites or aboard cruise ships, with the naked eye or with binoculars. Whenever large, powerful blasts are being blown into the air, it is a sign that large whales are in the area. This is also a good sign to identify them! Fin whale? Blue whale? Or humpback? A large column-shaped spout visible several kilometres away is that of either a blue whale (over 6 metres high) or fin whale (4 to 6 metres high). That of the humpback whale is wider and cauliflower-shaped. As for minke whales and belugas, their spouts are smaller, which makes them difficult to see, but not impossible! However, the weather conditions can easily fool us!

Taken from from the bulletin Portrait de baleines, August 13, 2015

Gaspar, known as Boom Boom River in the Gaspé, where she spent a considerable part of the summer, was seen in the Marine Park (Fosse à François sector) by the GREMM – Fisheries and Oceans Canada team on Wednesday, August 5 around 6 am. Since then, she has been seen every day, sometimes in the company of fellow humpback Aramis.

Gaspar-dorsale-bedBorn in the warm Caribbean waters in the winter of 2004-2005, this female humpback followed her mother Helmet for her first spring migration to the St. Lawrence. Helmet has been been faithful to the Blanc-Sablon and Mingan regions since 1990 (according to observations by the Mingan Island Cetacean Study, (MICS). The following year, 2006, Gaspar was already back exploring the Estuary without her mother. That summer, Gaspar was often seen swimming in tandem with Pi-rat, a young male born the same year as her. These associations between humpbacks are generally unstable and short-lasting. The following year, Pi-rat and Gaspar were still seen together, though much less often. Since this initial observation in 2006, Gaspar has visited the Estuary every year. She owes her name to the ghost-shaped marking on the upper side of her right fluke, in the white part. Another way to recognize her is by her highly curved and pointy dorsal fin.

Capture-depth-bedOn August 5 at 6:25 am, a VHF tag was installed on Gaspar’s back. In the course of this tracking, the tag recorded a feeding period in deep waters (up to 120 m), followed by a period of shallower dives with no signs of feeding. We recognize these periods as a function of the “shape” of the dives recorded by the tag. A V-shaped dive is a sign of an exploratory dive while a U-shaped dive characterizes a feeding period. A prolonged period at the surface reveals either a period of rest or travel.

Learn more:

Humpback whale data sheet