Rich diversity of whale in the Mingan area
Our last research expedition (July 26th) in the Mingan area has reaffirmed us the plight of the North Atlantic right whales but has also unveiled a captivating display of baleen whale diversity in the area, including the largest animal on the planet, the blue whale.
MICS team witnessed the presence of 5 baleen whale species, each contributing to the rich marine ecosystem of the region. Among these were the agile minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), engaging in their feeding behaviors. As they glided through the water, their distinctive white pectoral fins glistened in the sunlight.
Further adding to the spectacle were the grand fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), a species known for their impressive velocity and streamlined appearance. Observing these magnificent animals reaffirms the significance of the Mingan area as a vital feeding ground for baleen whales.
Last but not least, the special encounter with the humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). Among the three humpback whales observed, one individual stood out - H878. This well-known humpback whale has become a familiar presence to the MICS team over the past month since it’s staying in a certain zone in the Mingan area.
The presence of these diverse baleen whale species underscores the importance of preserving and protecting the richness of the St. Lawrence. It is a clear indication that the conservation efforts put forth to protect these creatures are yielding positive results. Nonetheless, it is crucial to maintain and strengthen these conservation endeavors to ensure the continued thriving of these awe-inspiring baleen whales and their natural environment.
Anthropogenic impacts on North Atlantic Right Whale
In our last research expedition in the Mingan region, our MICS team made the sighting of two North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis), which are EG3380(Lemur) and EG1307. While the encounter was undoubtedly an exciting moment for the researchers, it also brought to light a pressing concern: the anthropogenic impact on these magnificent creatures.
Among the two right whales observed, Lemur (EG3380) bore a conspicuous mark indicative of a direct encounter with human activities. This somber observation highlights the grave consequences of human interactions with marine life and emphasizes the urgent need for conservation efforts.
Disturbingly, this is not an isolated incident. An alarming 90% of the North Atlantic right whale have experienced entanglement, both for females and males. Another disaster is the observations of North Atlantic right whales with multiple entanglements through there lives, which can be count until a mind-boggling number of 9!
Right whales, being slow swimmers and spending much of their time near the water's surface, are particularly susceptible to this threat. The entanglement in fishing gear can lead to severe injuries or even death, while vessel collisions and noise pollution from maritime activities pose a significant risk to their survival.
The situation demands immediate action and heightened awareness from both policymakers and the public. Measures such as seasonal fishing restrictions in known whale habitats, mandatory vessel speed limits, and acoustic monitoring to reduce noise pollution can go a long way in safeguarding these iconic creatures. Additionally, collaboration between researchers, conservation organizations, and the fishing and shipping industries is vital to implement effective solutions.
Known blue whale sightings
Blue whale, the largest animals on Earth, have always been a subject of fascination, and each sighting presents a unique opportunity to deepen our understanding of these animals.
As the 2023 research started in the St. Lawrence, marine biologists were greeted with a momentous occasion - the first sighting of a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) for this year in Matane area, wich is known as B200. First seen and identified in 1989, our researchers observed it also in 1991, 1993, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020 and 2022.
In addition to the sighting of B200, another observation was made by the team of GREMM in the estuary- the presence of Galinule (B236). This male blue whale, named by the mark of a foot of a Galinule on his dorsal fin, first seen and identified in 1992, had been spotted in the region in 1993, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016.
This gigantic marine mammal had been heavily hunted during the whaling era, pushing their population to the brink of extinction. However, decades of conservation efforts and stringent protection measures have led to a gradual recovery of their numbers, albeit with challenges still ahead.
The St. Lawrence River plays a crucial role in the lives of these gentle giants. It provides essential feeding grounds for blue whales, attracting them with an abundance of krill and other small marine organisms. Efforts to preserve and protect this critical habitat are paramount to ensuring the continued presence and well-being of the whales.
Our research on blue whales in the area provides valuable insights into their behavior, migration patterns, and population dynamics. Such knowledge is indispensable in formulating effective conservation strategies for this endangered species.
While the sightings of B200 and Galinule (B236) are cause for celebration, they also serve as a reminder of our responsibility to protect these vulnerable marine giants. Continued monitoring, research, and collaborative conservation efforts are essential to safeguarding their future and preserving the rich biodiversity of our oceans.