Whales Slow to Migrate

  • Queue de rorqual à bosse © GREMM
    17 / 11 / 2016 Par Josiane Cabana

    “The whales are on a reproduction strike”, jokes a News from Afield collaborator following her observation of two humpback whales in Gaspé Bay on November 10. Shouldn’t they have returned to the Caribbean to breed or give birth? Humpback whales follow this migration pattern, but within a given population there may be individuals that migrate and others who don’t. These whales may be non-breeding individuals: juveniles, “uncompetitive” males or non-pregnant females. Perhaps they are also engulfing their “last suppers” in the St. Lawrence before departing for the season. One must therefore enjoy these tardy observations, as pointed out by another collaborator from Gaspé, who reports that “she was elated” to have spotted a humpback in the bay this late in the fall (November 12). The underside of the whale’s tail seemed entirely black. “Might it have been Darkstar? Or her calf, H742? Both of them were observed in the bay this summer.” “Confirmation is not possible, as no photograph could be taken of this cetacean as it meandered peacefully through the waters of the Gulf.

    Un petit rorqual en alimentation de surface © GREMM

    Minke whale surface feeding  © GREMM

    A little later in her trip through Forillon National Park, it was turbulent water and the presence of seabirds that caught her attention; “Two or three minke whales were feeding near the surface; we could see them swimming in circles in pursuit of their prey! I really didn’t expect to see so many whales in the bay today!”, she exclaimed.

    In the Franquelin region, minke whales have also been present near the coast. Two humpback whales were also seen on November 2, one performing a complete breach and the other slapping the water with its caudal fin. There haven’t been any more large rorquals in this area since then.

    Last Thursday, an observer posted on the Tadoussac dunes mentioned a strong presence of minke whales, adding “I have yet to notice a decline in their numbers.” A few days earlier, two or three large spouts were also visible from the sandy plateau. Probably fin whales.