Stranded Sowerby's beaked whale

July the 3rd, 2013


We recently got informed by the Réseau québécois d'urgences pour les mammifères marins, which we are involve in it, that a Sowerby's beaked whale was found stranded on a beach of Ile aux Pommes, in the estuary of the St. Lawrence, on the South shore of Tadoussac. This finding is surprising. Beyond the difficulties in observing this specie, due to the small size (5m in average), of its discrete nature and the dives that can last up to 30 min, the Sowerby's beaked whale is a pelagic specie that usually live in the deep water of the Northern Atlantic ocean and thus is very rarely seen in coastal waters. This is also the first time that such an observation is made in the Estuary. The other observation dating back to 2006 in the Gulf, in Gaspésie.

Although its habitat ranges from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Biscay, it remains a European species which can be seen in the eastern part of the Atlantic Ocean from Norway to Spain and Iceland to the Azores . However, groups are observed in the submarine canyon of the Gully off Nova Scotia. The MICS team had seen off Newfoundland, along the continental slope of the Grand Banks during the three-week expedition to the Flemish Cap in 2010 to search for blue whales and right whales.

The causes of death are still being defined, but at first glance, the animal shows no trace of injury. In order to discover the reasons for the grounding, a team from the GREMM composed of veterinarians visited the site to conduct a necropsy of the animal. The results should tell us more in the coming months.