The Gulf of St. Lawrence is an incredibly diverse area located at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, where the Great Lakes flush out into the Atlantic Ocean. This estuary ecosystem is one of the largest of its kind in the world and has many unique species that call it home. Read on to learn about a few species of whales that can be found in this part of Canada.
Did you know that the largest animal in the entire history of Earth lives in the Gulf of St. Lawrence? Blue whales are absolutely massive, reaching lengths of at least 33 metres and can weigh up to 190 tonnes. That’s like lining up three school buses from end to end! These gentle giants can live between 70 and 80 years. Blue whales that live in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are endangered. They are threatened by human activities such as noise pollution and collisions with ships.
Humpback whales are renowned for their charismatic, awe-inspiring behaviours above and below the ocean’s surface. They frequently launch themselves into the air and land with a big splash or slap the surface of the water with their long pectoral fins. They also sing incredibly complex songs which allow them to communicate with each other and be heard from hundreds of kilometres away!
North Atlantic right whales
North Atlantic right whales were once named for being the “right whale” to hunt. Although no longer hunted they are threatened by human interactions such as entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes. Right whales are one of the largest species on Earth and have massive heads that measure almost one-third of their total length. They’re slow-moving, surface-dwelling animals that migrate close to the coast and spend their summers feeding in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Beluga whales are primarily an Arctic species, but did you know they can be found as far south as the Gulf of St. Lawrence? These white whales are easy to spot thanks to their colour, large size and bulging forehead. They’ve garnered the nickname “sea canaries” because they are such a chatty species. Their large, bulbous forehead – which is called a melon – contains special tissues that allow them to create a wide variety of sounds that they use to communicate and navigate through echolocation.
Did you know orcas can be found in every ocean in the world? Orcas and other dolphins are thought to be some of the smartest animals on the planet, challenging great apes for the top spot. They live in highly complex family groups, called pods. These families are tightknit groups led by older females, who can live up to 80 to 90 years. Much longer than males who only have an estimated lifespan of about 50 years.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence is teeming with life and contains many other species such as sperm whales, minke whales and fin whales. Learn more about species that call Canada home on our Marine Life Encyclopedia >>