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Species at Risk

Blue Whale (Atlantic population)

Balaenoptera musculus

Why protect the Blue Whale?

Close-up view of a 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?

Recovery Actions

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 population.

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 naturalists.

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.