Our Whales

Whales and dolphins of the St. Lawrence

The terms "whales" and "dolphins" are vernacular terms commonly used to designate a variety of different species belonging to the order of Cetacea. There are close to 90 species of cetaceans that can be split into two main families (suborders): Odontocetes (toothed whales) and Mysticetes (baleen whales). 

MICS focuses its research on rorqual whales, which are mysticete species belonging to the 'Balaenopteridae' family. These species are characterized by a large ventral pouch that extends thanks to the presence of pleats (slits) along the lower jaw when these whales feed. Our main study species are blue, fin, humpback and minke whales. 

The St Lawrence river hosts a great variety of cetaceans, some resident populations that stay year-round such as the beluga, some more transient species that mainly migrate here during the feeding season. Thirteen cetacean species are regularly observed in the St Lawrence, ranging from the Estuary to the Gulf. Click on any of the species below to find out more about them.



Blue whales showing mating rituals known as 'rumba'

Blue Whale

Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)   Aerial image of a blue whale   Family: BalaenopteridaeSpecies: Balaenoptera musculusLength: 20 to 30 m. The biggest specimen was 33.3m, captured in the Southern Ocean.Weight: 75 to 130 metric tons.Life expectancy: Confirmed at least 50 years, estimated to reach 70-90 years, with an inferred generation time of 31 years. Diet: Primarily Krill (euphausiids) and copepods....

→ Read More

A pod of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) travelling into the St Lawrence waters

Fin Whale

Finback Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)   Family: Balaenopteridae Species: Balaenoptera physalus Length: 20 to 24 meters. Weight: 40 to 85 metric tons. Life expectancy: 75 to 100 years. Diet: Feeds on euphausids and also on capelin and sand lance, and juvenile herring. Description: The fin whale is the second largest baleen whale, and member of the rorqual family, with sleek, highly...

→ Read More

Full breach of a humpback whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)   Humpback whale B405 "Barbillon" breaching   Family: Balaenopteridae Species: Megaptera novaeangliae (Borowski, 1781) Length: 12 to 13 meters on average. Can grow up to 16 meters for the females. Weight: 25 to 30 metric tons. Life expectancy: Up to 80 years. Description: The humpback whale belongs to the family of rorqual whales (Balaenopteridae) in the...

→ Read More

Elongated, pointy head of a minke whale

Minke Whale

Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)     Family: Balaenopteridae   Species: Balaenopteridae acutorostrata   Lenght: 8 to 9 meters on average, maximum 12 meters.   Weight: 6 to 8 metric tons.   Life expectancy: Likely similar to other baleen whales at around 20 to 30 years.   Diet: Known to include schooling fish such as sand lance, capelin, juvenile herring, and euphausids....

→ Read More

RSD (Right Side Dorsal) of a porpoise

Harbour Porpoise

Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)   Family: Phococenidae Species: Phocoena phocoena Lenght: 1 to 2 meters. Weight: 27 to 88 Kg. Life expectancy: Up to 24 years. Diet: Small schooling fish such as herring, capelin, sprat, silver hake and cephalopods (squid). Description: Harbor porpoises are the most commonly sighted species of toothed whale in our study area in the St. Lawrence. Like...

→ Read More