We Actually Know Very LittleFrom dangerous sea monsters in the past to an overexploited natural resource in the 20th century humans’ attitude towards cetaceans has changed considerably. Today whales and dolphins are very popular with the general public, worldwide. But despite this international attention, still very little is actually known about the biology, ecology, distribution, and population dynamics of free-living cetaceans.Awareness Among The Locals
Based on a tiny note in a scientific paper mentioning the possibility of whales, the Canadian zoologist and behaviourist Ned Lynas headed out to the St. Lawrence River in the late Seventies. He first interviewed local fishermen who pointed out that there were no whales apart from some belugas in these waters. Heading out to sea Ned quickly learned that rorqual whales were abundant and that this area was an ideal study area. He then began his studies on whales in the St.Lawrence Estuary.
From then on Ned spent his summers in the Estuary and founded the Centre for Coastal Field Studies in 1978, which later became the Ocean Research and Education Society (ORES). Since then, he and his team have studied rorqual whales each summer, moving from descriptive to quantitative to predictive study methods. Soon after Ned started, other scientists began conducting studies in the area. Today, almost all cetacean species of the Estuary are the focus of various studies.
Focusing on the Minke Whale
After studying belugas in the 1980s, Ned Lynas shifted his focus towards the poorly known rorqual whales, studying their distribution, breathing ecology, surface geometry and feeding behaviors. In the mid-nineties, the growing number of tourist boats made it more and more difficult to conduct studies on blue, finback and humpback whales. As tourists showed little interest in the smaller baleen whale species, ORES started to concentrate on the ever present and poorly studied Minke whale (Balaenoptera a. acutorostrata).