Quebec maritime

The 13 species of whales found in the St. Lawrence

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 kg

The 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.

2- Atlantic white-sided dolphin – 2 to 2.7 m, 180 to 230 kg

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.

3- White-beaked dolphin – 2.5 to 3 m, 135 to 275 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.

4- Beluga whale – 3 to 4.5 m, 0.7 to 1.5 tonnes

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.

5- Long-finned pilot whale – 4 to 5 m, 2 to 3.5 tonnes

These large dolphins form family units of several dozen individuals. They regularly visit the gulf, but are rarely found in the estuary.

6- Killer whale – 6 to 7 m, 3 to 7 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.

7- Northern bottlenose whale – 6 to 10 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.

8- Sperm whale – 11 to 15 m, 15 to 40 tonnes

Immortalized in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, sperm whales have been sighted regularly in the St. Lawrence Estuary since 1991.
Baleen whales – 5 species (11 species worldwide)

1- Minke whale – 6 to 9 metres, 6 to 8 tonnes

The smallest of the baleen whales, minkes display their pink undersides as they hunt near the shore.

2- Humpback whale – 11 to 13 metres, 25 to 30 tonnes

The best known of the large cetaceans, humpbacks show their tail with every dive.

3- North Atlantic right whale – 10 to 15 m, 30 to 60 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.

4- Fin whale – 18 to 21 metres, 40 to 50 tonnes

A few dozen fin whales, the world’s second largest animals, can be spotted in the St. Lawrence Estuary every summer.

5- Blue whale – 21 to 26 metres, 80 to 210 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.
Testimonials about Whale Watching
  • April 2010
    Explore Scenic Drives by Motorcycle!
    "Discover a tourism destination where roads run alongside the sea, mountains, valleys and rivers in a region dotted with rest areas, scenic lookouts and great gourmet finds." Read more »
  • A Small Bay among Giants
    "The best thing about Tadoussac, however, is this feeling of well-being that comes over you when you are here. In these surroundings, between the water, the mountains and the village, the air you breathe is pure and you really feel as though you are living in the present moment." Read more »
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  • Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park

    Visitors come from all over the world to observe the St. Lawrence whales. With any luck, you will hear their blows as they surface! You can observe several species in the park, including porpoises, minkes, fin whales, belugas and even blue whales.
  • Croisières AML (cruises)

    Enjoy a whale-watching cruise by sightseeing boat or Zodiac departing from Rivière-du-Loup or Tadoussac.
  • Forillon National Park

    Several species of whales feed in the waters off Forillon. Set off to encounter them with Croisières Baie de Gaspé and learn how to identify them. You can also observe whales from the coastal trails in the park.
See all whale watching companies (16) and plan my trip

Sept-Îles: A City Worth a Visit!

Presented by: Tourisme Sept-Îles
Savour the bounty of the sea!
Photo: Tourisme Sept-Îles
Exceptional wildlife awaits you in the archipelago: razorbills, common murres, whales and seals.
Photo: Mario Tremblay
You never know what you’ll see on a kayaking trip!
Photo: Catherine Allard
Guides on Grande Basque Island are happy to introduce visitors to local geology, marine biology, ornithology and mycology.
Photo: Tourisme Sept-Îles
Sea and sand as far as the eye can see! These miles of white sand are perfect for strolling, picnicking or building sand castles.
Photo: Tourisme Sept-Îles
Admire Sept-Îles Bay during a walk on the Vieux-Quai (Old Wharf).
Photo: Tourisme Sept-Îles
Breathtaking sunsets await you here!
Photo: Évelyne Côté
Our trails beckon…
Photo: Jean-François Ross
The Port of Sept-Îles is one of the oldest ports in Canada.
Photo: P. Paquet
Enjoying the sun and sea air...
Photo: Tourisme Sept-Îles
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Whale Watching Photos
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  • Humpback whale flukes
  • Sea excursion in Forillon National Park of Canada (Gaspésie)
  • Kayaker and minke whale off Île Verte
  • Atlantic White-Sided dolphins (Côte-Nord - Duplessis)
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