2014 Season: continuation and conclusion
Other fin whales later joined Milady (F299): Perroquet (F045), followed by Topper (F028) two long-known males as well as Curly (F002), a big beautiful female known since 1982. These individuals exhibit very high site-fidelity, as we have been seeing them in the same areas of the Jacques Cartier strait over the years along the North Shore, off of Magpie and BBR. A total of a dozen fin whales had been sighted by end of July and beginning of August, as well as a few humpback whales Tingley (H277) and Darkstar (H140) amongst others. Thousands of harbour porpoises had also been sighted off and around the Mingan Archipelago. The season had finally started
Tingley H277, off Ile Nue, Mingan Archipelago
Fin Whales off Riviere-au-Tonnerre
Trauma B349, recognizable by the depression on its back
August in Mingan ended with the massive arrival of Atlantic white-sided dolphins by the hundreds, including many young individuals and calves, and more and more whales, topped with the wonderful cherry on the cake that was the regular appearance of northern lights. These dolphins were the reason that Nikki Vollmer, a postdoctoral fellow from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Smithsonian Institution, joined our team in order to study the population genetics of this species (http://www.rorqual.com/news.php?art=220&archive=0&lang=en).
In the meantime, on the other side of the Gulf, on the South Shore in Gaspe, another research season was starting: the blue whale satellite-tagging project.
Atlantic White-sided Dolphins
Regarding the fin whales, their numbers increased much quicker, including males such as Stratum, F371, F348, F037, F320 and F150; females such as F181, F253, F491 and F344; as well as many more individuals who have not yet been biopsied, such as F540, F336, F189 and F241, to name but a few.
A great surprise came in the form of a right whale on September 1st. It is a very rare, and very exciting sighting for us, seeing as it is one of the most endangered species of cetaceans. Our pictures were immediately sent to Moira Brown from the New England Aquarium, who identified the individual as #1162, a male who has been known since the 80s. This is the first time this individual has been sighted in the Gulf of St Lawrence. He was resighted in the same area south of Havre-Saint-Pierre on the 5th and 7th of September. Welcome to our waters dear friend, and may you stay as long as you wish!
Northern Right Whale
After that splendid day, bad weather came along, bringing rain, fog, and even sunny days that were riddled with strong winds. Patience is a virtue One of our colleagues, Katy Gavrilchuk, embarked aboard the Roter Sand sailboat in Rimouski for the Nomades des Océans Symposium, a 10-day expedition in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, from the 9th till 20th, including 5 stops along the Gulf and the Estuary (http://www.m-expertisemarine.com/projets/symposium-nomade-des-oceans/). The project brought together 18 participants, among whom specialist St-Lawrence cetaceans researchers, representatives from various marine mammal conservation NGOs, and marine ecology students. Among them, Sonia Giroux from the Réseau d'observation de mammifères marins (ROMM), Lyne Morissette from M - Expertise Marine, Josiane Cabana from the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Network, and our Katy.
Finally, the weather allowed us a last day out at sea on September 26th. We noticed that there were still many animals present in the strait. Around twenty fin whales, ten humpback whales, many porpoises and minke whales, but no dolphins.
Among the humpbacks, we saw Whip, Tingley, Spines, Aramis, X-Mas, Barbillon, Leprechaun (H379) and St. Laurent (H152). The latter had just been sighted off the coast of Gaspe.
We also had the pleasure of having the Sedna IV and Jean Lemire's team visit Mingan. Our own team members were extremely thrilled to get a tour of this magnificent boat. It was a great way to end our 36th season.
While we were preparing the station and the boats to be stowed away for the winter, we had a beautiful, windless week. How cruel, don't you think?
In any case we wish to thank all of our collaborators and partners, everyone who has been sending us pictures of humpback, fin, and blue whales, and to our visitors who came to meet us at the museum and joined us out to sea.
A great big THANK YOU to our team members, volunteers and sessions, without whom none of this would be possible.
See you next season