Species at Risk

Blue Whale (Atlantic population)

Balaenoptera musculus

What is the status of the Blue Whale?

Close-up view of a Blue whale in Saguenay St.Lawrence Marine Park.
Populations of blue whales are relatively well distributed in the oceans, but the St. Lawrence is one of the rare areas in the world where they can be seen close to land.
© Parks Canada / J. Audet

For several years now, the blue whale has been considered endangered by COSEWIC. A species or population is designated as endangered by COSEWIC if it is experiencing significant risks. The Atlantic blue whale is protected under the Government of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). It is also protected under the Marine Mammals Regulations, which fall under the Fisheries Act.

Why is the Blue Whale in danger?

Some 200,000 blue whales once populated the world’s oceans. It is not known how many Blue whales are in the Atlantic population but between 20 and 105 are spotted annually in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Commercial hunting was the main reason for the decline of this species. Because of their large size, Blue Whales were highly desired by whalers as large quantities of oil and meat can be extracted from a dead whale. Even though commercial whaling ended in 1955 in the North Atlantic, there are still threats to the small populations of the Blue Whale left today. Current threats include disturbance by ships, collisions with ships, entrapment in fishing gear, pollution and environmental changes. Additionally, climate change is expected to have a significant impact on the Blue Whale’s food source in the near future, which will pose a new threat for the species.