About 80 species of whales live in the world’s seas. Of these, 12 migrate to the St. Lawrence every year while one lives there year-round. The fact that so many species are found in such a relatively small ecosystem makes the St. Lawrence one of the best places to observe whales in the world. Many companies offer whale-watching excursions as of May; the whale-watching season extends into October.
Toothed whales – 8 species (70 species worldwide)
1- Harbour porpoise – 1.5 to 2 m, 45 to 50 kgThe smallest of the St. Lawrence cetaceans and one of the smallest in the world, the harbour porpoise is hard to spot. However, there are over 20,000 in the St. Lawrence.
These dolphins swim in pods of hundreds of individuals and love to play in the wake of passing boats. They are found in great numbers in the gulf and occasionally visit the estuary.
2- Atlantic white-sided dolphin – 2 to 2.7 m, 180 to 230 kg
Like the Atlantic white-sided dolphin, white-beaked dolphins swim in large pods and like to play in the wake of passing boats. They also visit the gulf regularly but are generally found further north.
3- White-beaked dolphin – 2.5 to 3 m, 135 to 275 kg
Belugas have the widest vocal range among cetaceans. The only whales to live year round in the St. Lawrence, they are easily identifiable by their white skin.
4- Beluga whale – 3 to 4.5 m, 0.7 to 1.5 tonnes
These large dolphins form family units of several dozen individuals. They regularly visit the gulf, but are rarely found in the estuary.
5- Long-finned pilot whale – 4 to 5 m, 2 to 3.5 tonnes
The largest of the dolphins, the killer whale is rarely seen in the St. Lawrence. However, since 1984, a pod of three individuals has been regularly sighted in the gulf, off Mingan.
6- Killer whale – 6 to 7 m, 3 to 7 tonnes
A small population of northern bottlenose whales lives in the waters off Nova Scotia. To date, the only individuals spotted in the St. Lawrence have been live stranded whales.
7- Northern bottlenose whale – 6 to 10 m, 3 to 7 tonnes
Immortalized in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, sperm whales have been sighted regularly in the St. Lawrence Estuary since 1991.
8- Sperm whale – 11 to 15 m, 15 to 40 tonnes
Baleen whales – 5 species (11 species worldwide)
1- Minke whale – 6 to 9 metres, 6 to 8 tonnesThe smallest of the baleen whales, minkes display their pink undersides as they hunt near the shore.
The best known of the large cetaceans, humpbacks show their tail with every dive.
2- Humpback whale – 11 to 13 metres, 25 to 30 tonnes
The North Atlantic right whale is the quintessential whale, just as you imagine it: round and chubby! Once heavily hunted, some 300 survivors are left in the North Atlantic.
3- North Atlantic right whale – 10 to 15 m, 30 to 60 tonnes
A few dozen fin whales, the world’s second largest animals, can be spotted in the St. Lawrence Estuary every summer.
4- Fin whale – 18 to 21 metres, 40 to 50 tonnes
Only a few hundred blue whales—the largest animals on the planet—still exist. The St. Lawrence is one of the rare places in the world where they can be observed near the shore.
5- Blue whale – 21 to 26 metres, 80 to 210 tonnes