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Increasingly tuned in to whales, Whales Online presents its new colours in french and english
For its 15th anniversary, the reference site on whales of the St. Lawrence has been completely revamped. With a broader network of collaborators and new columnists, Whales Online provides comprehensive coverage of news about whales here and elsewhere, week after week. Through News from Afield and Field Notes, from the Côte-Nord to the Gaspé and upstream to the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, some forty experienced observers and research teams relay their observations and share their most noteworthy moments. With a brand new look and thanks to the support of the Government of Canada’s National Conservation Plan and the Donner Canadian Foundation, the English version of Whales Online is back.
A tool for the discovery and conservation of whales and the St. Lawrence
WhalesOnline.org is an initiative of the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM). As a dynamic and constantly evolving platform, the site revolves around a copiously illustrated encyclopedia-like section that discusses cetaceans and the St. Lawrence, whale-watching in Quebec, research and conservation. For Gréta Fougère, General Director of the Association touristique de Manicouagan, “the Whales Online site is a tremendous tool to discover the world of whales before actually coming to see them on the Whale Route between Tadoussac to Blanc-Sablon”.
The Whales Online website, with its bulletin Portrait de Baleines, also plays a role in the continuous education of captains and naturalists belonging to the Eco-Whale Alliance. Partners of this Alliance, namely whale-watching cruise operators in the Marine Park as well as Parks Canada and Parcs Québec – co-managers of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park – receive news on research programs from a vast network of collaborators and the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network. Jérôme Gouron co-director of the Marine Park: “It’s a wonderful tool both for visitors who are interested in learning more about whales, and for captains and naturalists who can stay up to date on sightings in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park.”
Over 3,500 subscribers already receive the free Whales Online newsletter every week. And that number keeps growing, as does the number of subscribers on the social networks affiliated with Whales Online. GREMM Scientific Director Robert Michaud shares his excitement: “Having Whales Online in English again is fantastic. In fact, we are now capable of reaching everyone throughout Quebec and the rest of Canada. Over the years, we have become increasingly convinced that by sharing the whales’ stories, we can change the world, little by little.”
The different “faces” of Whales Online over the years:
With the Belugas: Week of July 20
We are in the 4th week of field work for the St. Lawrence beluga behavioural study. We have gone out on the water on two days during which we logged 9 hours of observations for 15 hours at sea.
We first explored the Saguenay Fjord sector, from Caribou-Qui-Pisse Falls to Baie Sainte-Marguerite. We also patrolled the waters of the municipality of Petit-Saguenay, more specifically around Pointe aux Crêpes. We later explored the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord off of Baie-Sainte-Catherine and as far as east-central Île Blanche. The weather during the last two excursions was problematic: poor visibility, periods of fog and rain, strong waves and heavy cloud cover. In total we observed 3 herds numbering about 15 adults and gray young as well as a herd of 80 individuals composed of females, grays and one calf. The animals were rather dynamic: surface activities, milling (repeated diving and resurfacing at the same spot), vocalizations and multidirectional movement.
Tuesday July 21, 2015 The numerous waves form whitecaps, complicating our task of spotting belugas under the circumstances. Nevertheless, we manage to get a number of photos of belugas showing distinctive markings. Within the herd we recognize Céline, who is swimming with her calf which is at least one year old. The latter has a deformity that makes it appear hunchbacked, a little like Pascolio, a well known female in the Saguenay sector that suffers from lordosis, i.e. a concave curvature of the vertebral column. A number of belugas showing deformities also found in humans (lordosis, scoliosis) frequent the waters of the St. Lawrence and the Saguenay. Pascolio, Scolio, Néo and others are more easily recognizable by this characteristic, but photos are often necessary to confirm an identification made in the field.. Then, toward the end of our observation, we encounter two “grays” that we had not yet seen this season that are moving in the opposite direction of our herd. They quickly swim away, leaving the herd behind.
Thursday, July 23, 2015: We observe a large herd of some 80 individuals, highly dynamic and active at the surface. As they are vocalizing quite a bit, we decide to drop our hydrophone into the water to record the underwater sounds. The herd splits into groups of about a dozen individuals and it is increasingly difficult to keep count. We snap off a few photos when we spot an individual with a very distinctive dorsal crest. It makes for a good candidate for a biopsy, which we complete successfully.
Here is the star observed this week: Céline
With the Belugas: Week of June 29, 2015
The field season for the St. Lawrence beluga behavioural study is under way. The first week consisted of three days for a total of 15 hours at sea and six hours observing belugas. Accompanied by inclement weather which lasted the entire three days (fog, wind, waves, rain), we travelled up the Saguenay Fjord from its mouth to Baie Sainte-Marguerite. When offshore conditions are compromised by heavy fog and strong winds, the weather is generally calmer in the Saguenay, which allows us to sample this sector, which is every bit as important for belugas. We therefore take advantage of this tendency to explore the Fjord. We also visited the waters south of Île Rouge, in the middle of the Estuary off Tadoussac. During the week, we observed a high percentage of “grays”, i.e. juveniles that are not yet completely white. At birth, beluga calves are light brown. In their second year they turn blue-gray (known as a “bleuvet” in French) and will fade in colour with age. The transition from gray to white occurs between 12 and 16 years. We also saw several females with young, with herd sizes ranging from 2-20 individuals. The majority of individuals were dynamic and directional in their movements; in other words, they were en route to a fixed point, without stopping along the way.
July 1, 11:00 am: We encounter an old acquaintance dating back to 1998. It is a female, Pacalou, and her “bleuvet”. In the same group, we also observe Miss Frontenac, her oldest daughter who is now about 11 years old, and who is also accompanied by her second-year young. Mother and daughter are both simultaneously “moms”. They swam up the Saguenay Fjord, from Anse à la Boule to Îles Coquarts.
July, 3:00 pm: We explore Baie Sainte-Marguerite, a restricted area where the belugas spend several hours, including a great deal of time surveying the surface and swimming in circles. We observe a group of about twenty individuals. They are highly active and are moving about quickly, making it difficult to count the number of adults and young. We take a few quick snapshots. Among them, we spot a familiar individual: Blanche, a female first identified in 2001, who is over 25 years old and who has recently been adopted by the municipality of Tadoussac.
July 3: We observe a group of about a dozen individuals south of Île Rouge that are zipping back and forth in every direction. When this type of behaviour is observed, it is almost always in this sector. Perhaps they are taking advantage of the shallow waters to feed, but on what kind of prey is anyone’s guess.
The Bleuvet is a boat belonging to the GREMM. It is dedicated to the long-term research program on St. Lawrence belugas
GREMM IS LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEER INTERNS
We are looking for volunteer interns for the 2015 season to participate in the photo-identification program of the great whales of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park.
- Photo-identification of whales onboard whale-watching vessels
- Database management (audio/Excel)
- Photo analysis work (matching)
Requirements and qualifications
- Rigor and meticulousness, analytical mindset and professionalism
- Motivation and positive attitude
- Experience in the field of photography, an asset
- Mid-June to mid-September
- 40 h week
- Housing is provided (located a short distance from the workplace)
Please send your application by email to: email@example.com
Groupe de recherche et d’éducation sur les mammifères marins (GREMM)
108, rue de la Cale-Sèche, C. P. 223, Tadoussac (QC) G0T 2A0, Tél. 418-235-4701 Fax : 418-235-4325
in the media
Call of the Baby Beluga
07/07/2018A baby beluga whale washes up on a beach, one of the 900 endangered belugas in Canada's St. Lawrence River. This is the story of a group of scientists who use knowledge and compassion to try to save the endangered baby and her family.More
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