Research and Education for the Conservation of Baleen Whales
Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) is a non-profit, charitable research organization based in both Canada and the United States, dedicated to ecological studies of marine mammals and marine ecosystems. Founded in 1979 by Richard Sears, MICS was the first organization to carry out long-term research of cetaceans in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and first to carry out long-term studies of the endangered blue whale. The principal study areas include the Quebec North Shore in the Mingan Island / Anticosti region, the Gaspe Peninsula and St. Lawrence Estuary.
The interns are trained and two of our boats are ready : we now go out at sea every time the weather permits. However, we are seeing mostly minke whales that we take time to observe, photograph, and document their behaviors, which includes spectacular lunge feeding maneuvers to capture schooling prey fishes like capelin and sand lance. To surprise, corral, and catch these fishes, they quickly lunge with their mouth open, above or near the surface, with a variety of body orientations that are vertical, at oblique angles with the surface, on their sides, or upside down as a ventral lunge. We can then briefly see their pectoral fins, flukes, inside of their mouth or even their ventral pouch filled with water and fish. It makes for a very impressive show that can sometimes be observed in shallow water, just a few hundred meters from the beach.
The season begins at the station
Now that the interns are finally out of their quarantine, everybody is settled down in the famous blue house after a deep cleaning mission, and the boats are back into shape, we can say that the 2021 season is on!
We were finally able to get a boat in the water and set out to sea this week. It was a first time at sea for one of the interns, and we had to turn back to fish out a hat that had flown over-board : a rookie mistake! That day offered perfect conditions to learn coastal navigation and orientation from the beautiful Mingan Islands and out to Anticosti Island, and to review the rudiments of weather reading, nautical safety and navigation.