Blue whale B285 found beached in Moisie Bay

On November 22 a 22m female blue whale floated ashore dead in Moisie Bay near Sep-Iles on the Quebec North Shore. This blue whale known as B285 was first photo-identified by MICS biologists in August of 1994 at the level of Forestville in the St. Lawrence Estuary. In fact this individual seen with some regularity had only been observed in the estuary, until the moment of its death. Our studies have shown that blue whales often disperse from the estuary east along the North Shore to Sept-Iles or the Mingan/Anticosti region in September and late into the fall.

No scars or bruises were found on the whale that would indicate it had been hit by a ship or become entangled in fishing gear. Externally the whale seemed healthy and there were no cutaneous parasitic infestations or lesions. A biopsy sample had been taken in 1994 so the genetic make up and toxic load had been analyzed. Skin and blubber samples were, however, again collected for further toxic analyses.

This was a sexually mature female, confirmed by the fact that she had been known to us for 11 years. We have no, idea, however, how old she was when we first sighted B285 in 1994.

This is only the second blue whale from our catalog of individuals for which we have any precise data on time and place of death. Over 26 seasons many other individuals may have died, however, we can not be certain due to lack of data. This is one of the difficult aspects of studying far-ranging long-lived species, which live in the sea. And even if we havent seen an individual for several years we can not assume that it has died, because we re-sight some animals after 10, 15, and even 22yrs. There is of course a higher probability that an animal seen regularly has died if we do not observe several years in a row.

We may never know why B285 died, but she did add to our knowledge of the blue whales found in the St. Lawrence.