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Useful Information

Whale species

Whale species


The Gulf of St. Lawrence: the best whale watching site in the world.

Why?   The abundance of food (krill) for marine mammals.

This is due to the meeting of 3 under-sea currents in the Tadoussac area.
•     The current that comes from the Great Lakes.
•     The current from the Saguenay River
•     The Labrador Current, a cold deep-sea current coming from the North Atlantic. .
The Labrador Current hits the shoals at the mouth of the Saguenay River and rises to the surface, where its mixes with the two other currents. This upwelling of deep water sirs up the organic particles that fertilize the water. This stimulates the development of plankton, small crustaceans and larger fish.

Krill, which is a type of plankton, is the Norwegian word for whale food. It is a small crustacean measuring about 3 cm. The whales also feed on capelin, smelt, salmon and cod.

The daily diet of these sea mammals consists of: minke whales about 100 kg of fish daily,
fin-back whales about 2-3 tons of krill & fish, and the blue whales about 4-5 tons of krill.

For more information on the St. Lawrence River and its wildlife, visit the Croisières AML websites:


• Vu du large
• Gremm
• Baleines en direct

 

Baleen Whales
The baleen whales: the mysticetes

The baleen  is composed of a number of rigid hairs sandwiched between two plates made of a hard yet flexible material similar to our nails, which extend down from the roof of the upper jaw.  It filters the water taken in by the whale. There are between 200 and 400 on each side of the mouth.

There are two groups among the mysticètes: skimmers and gulpers. The whales of the
St. Lawrence are gulpers.

How do the gulpers feed?


Whales are always on the look-out for schools of fish.  Once they have located their food supply, they open their mouth. The pleated throat grooves that run from below the mouth back to the navel, expand immensely, permitting them to engorge great mouthfuls of food and water in a single gulp.  These folds have earned them the name of Rorquals which is derived from the Norwegian word Royrkval meaning furrow whale. In this mouthful of water, there is a large quantity of food particles. The whales close their mouth, push their tongue toward the upper palate and contracts their ventral grooves. After passing through the baleen, the water is expelled from the mouth.  All the food is trapped and the whales just need to lick their baleen and swallow the food.

 

Toothed whales
Toothed whales: the odontocetes
Toothed whales capture their prey one by one. They spot them with their sonar, chase them
and catch them with their teeth or with a sucking motion by opening their mouth brutally. It is said
that these animals can stun their prey by sending a series of very powerful ultrasonic sounds.

Toothed whales eat fish, shellfish and squid.  They do not chew their food. If the prey is too big,
they will just tear it to shreds.

Minke whale
  • 8 m, 6-8 tons.
  • Dark gray back
  • Pale underside and a bright white large diagonal band across the middle of the flippers
  • Diet: small fish and krill.

 

Fin whale-finback whale
  • 21-25 m, 40-50 tons.
  • Dark grey back and white underside
  • White side of the lower lip.
  • Diet: small fish and krill.

 

Humpback whale
  • 11-13 m, 25-30 tons.
  • Dark grey back and white underside
  • Pectoral flippers 4 m long and occasionally shows its tail when diving
  • Diet: small fish and krill.

 

Blue whale
  • 25-31 m, 80-130 tons.
  • Back and underside are blue-gray
  • The biggest mammal in the world
  • Diet: krill (up to 4 tons a day)

 

White or beluga whale
  • 3-4.5 m, 0.7-1.5 tons.
  • Light brown at birth, it turns bluish gray then white as an adult.
  • Diet: varied-mollusks, worms, fish, squid...

 

Other species

 

Grey seal

 

  • 2-2.25 m, 0.2-0.4 ton.
  • Also called horse head seal
  • Lives in groups along rocky coasts
  • Diet: fish, mollusks and crustaceans.

 

© Photos credits: UAQM, Wikipedia, GREMM, Renaud Pintiaux