A Paradise for Whales and
To the best of our knowledge, the St. Lawrence Estuary is one of the very best places worldwide for conducting in-depth and long-term studies on minke whales in order to understand their biology and ecology in greater detail. This is mainly due to their abundance, close proximity, high site fidelity, high inter- and intra-annual re-sighting rates, and unique feeding behaviours in rather protected waters. For almost two decades ORES has gained insights into the spatial and temporal distribution, habitat use, population dynamics, behavioural, feeding and breathing ecology and culture of this species.
The solitary living minke whale is the smallest and most abundant rorqual whale species found in the study area. They are encountered daily in varying numbers with a maximum of 74 individuals on one day in 2006 (unpubl. data). Therefore they are a significant component of the marine ecosystem and the Marine Park and are of great importance to the local whale watching industry.
Our ability to photograph and identify almost all individual minke whales right in the field on any given day enables us to carry out unique and in-depth studies not only of the population but also at an individual level. Today, the ORES Minke Whale catalogue is the most extensive database of its kind holding almost 300 individuals. The first minke was identified in 1978 and many life histories go back to the early Nineties.
Minimally intrusive research methods applied
Dedicated and opportunistic survey transects are conducted daily (weather permitting) from small rigid-hull inflatable boats. To date, only non-intrusive research methods such as distant sampling, focal observations, photo-identification and mark / recapture techniques have been applied. ORES’ research findings help increase our limited knowledge of the poorly understood Minke whales, both locally and internationally, leading to the development and implementation of management policies and conservation efforts for the protection of marine life and the ecosystems they live in in general and the minke whales specifically.