Species at Risk
Blue Whale (Atlantic population)
Why protect the Blue Whale?
The blue whale is enormous: the largest ever observed
was 29.5 metres long and weighed more than 150 tonnes. Average blue
whales are 20 metres long.
© Parks Canada / J. Audet
The blue whale’s presence contributes in a very impressive way to the
ecological diversity of the Estuary. During the 16th century, Basque hunters
exploited this species in the St. Lawrence. For a long time, the blue whale
hunt was the basis of an important industry. It is the over-exploitation of
this species that led to its decline. Today, blue whales can only be “hunted”
with a camera. Spotting a blue whale and being able to observe it in its natural
habitat is an exceptional experience.
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. Therefore, it is even more important that we protect
this special habitat so that we can continue to admire this impressive animal
at close range.
What is Parks Canada doing to save the Blue Whale?
The creation of new Marine
Activities in the Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park Regulations in 2002
is one of the most important measures by Parks Canada to encourage the recovery
of the Atlantic blue whale population. These regulations, written in collaboration
with the people who use the Marine Park waters, provide guidelines on the
observation of marine mammals. The main objective of these regulations is
to reduce the disturbance caused by human activities. The regulations were
implemented in 2002, making it illegal to be closer than 400 metres to a blue
whale or beluga – no matter what type of boat the use is in. Since their
implementation in 2002, it has been illegal to get closer than 400 metres
to a blue whale or a beluga - no matter what type of watercraft is being used.
Under the Species at Risk Act, a recovery plan for the Atlantic blue whale
population will be created by January 2008. This plan, written by a recovery
team made up of various partners involved in the protection of this species,
will outline the necessary actions for the recovery of the Atlantic blue whale
Research and observation
Several research and follow-up projects have been done in the past and others
are underway today. Parks Canada is participating in these projects, in collaboration
with other departments and non-governmental organizations involved in the
Marine Park area. Research on the blue whales focuses primarily on the development
of the size of the population, its composition, the use of the habitat and
the effects of human activities.
Raising public awareness
In the area of the Saguenay
St. Lawrence Marine Park, several opportunities are offered to visitors
who want to learn more about the Atlantic population of blue whales. Various
interpretation centres as well as panels installed on the piers and river
trails offer visitors information about this species. Three sites for land
observation of marine mammals are also accessible. In certain areas, the blue
whales can get as close as a dozen metres from the shore, such as at the Cap
de Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre. At these sites,
in addition to being able to observe the natural behaviour of these animals
without disturbing them, visitors can also learn from the expertise of on-site
Collaboration with partners
Staff at Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park work in collaboration with
various governmental and non-governmental partners in the areas of research,
species recovery and education: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada,
Parcs Québec, the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, the Group for research
and education on marine mammals (GREMM), Explos-Nature, ZIP committees (ZIP
is short for “zone d'intervention prioritaire,” or area of prime
concern) are among those involved in research and education on the Blue Whale.