Whales and seals

The area of the Marine Park is probably the only place where the beluga whale and the blue whale meet.

The St. Lawrence Estuary is a prime destination for whale and seal watching. In addition to the resident species, many migratory marine mammals will travel thousands of kilometres each year to get there.

Why? Because the estuary is a well-stocked pantry!  It is part of the quarter of the ocean surface area where prey is abundant and accessible. Several factors explain this phenomenon: currents and upwellings of deep waters, the tides, the topography of the sea floor, and the meeting of fresh water from rivers and the Great Lakes with the salt water of the Atlantic.

St. Lawrence beluga : the Marine Park’s star

The beluga is the star of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. The need to protect the beluga and its summer habitat was a convincing reason for the creation of the marine park in 1998.

In earlier times, belugas were abundant in the waters of the St. Lawrence. There were between 7,800 and 10,000 at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately, intensive commercial whaling in the early 20th century very nearly made them disappear. Despite the fact that whaling has been banned since 1979, the beluga population has not been restored. It is estimated that the population is actually in decline. Today, it would appear  between 1530 and 2200 belugas remain in the St. Lawrence.

The beluga has a varied diet, feeding on fish and invertebrates. Pregnant and nursing females must address significant energy needs. The protection of their habitats and their favorite food is essential for the recovery of this population.

Bélugas du Saint-Laurent vus à la surface.

Common species

From microscopic algae to the gigantic blue whale, more than 2,200 wild species have been observed at the marine park. Discover the marine mammals that are seen most often.

St. Lawrence beluga

It lives year-round in the St. Lawrence. The Marine Park has several places where females give birth to their young and care for them. Beluga whales are grayish white and the juvenile stage to adulthood. The beluga is known for its social skills and vocalizations. Its nickname is the “canary of the sea.”

Length : 3 to 5 m.

Weight : 0,7 to 2 tons

Minke whale

Present throughout the marine park, mink whales are often seen close to shore. Their population is not at risk. This whale can be recognized by its curved dorsal fin and the white band on each flipper.

Length : 6 to 10 m.

Weight : 6 to 10 tons

Fin whale

This is the second largest whale in the world.  is estimated at 3,000 whereas prior to hunting, there were approximately 40,000 of them. Its breath rises several metres above the water when it surfaces. Fast, it is called the “greyhound of the seas”. Between 20 and 50 fin whales can be seen in the Lower Estuary. The western North Atlantic population has the status of species of special concern.

Length : 18 to 21 m.

Weight : 40 to 50 tons

Humpback whale

The humpback whale is famous for breaching out of the water. It has both a hump-like dorsal fin and very long pectoral fins. Although it was threatened with extinction in the 1980s, the humpback population has since grown to the point that it is no longer at risk. Humpbacks visit the Lower Estuary in the summer.

Length : 11 to 16 m.

Weight : 25 to 35 tons

Blue whale

The blue whale is the largest animal on Earth. The North Atlantic population is endangered. About ten individuals occasionally visit the marine park in search of their favourite prey: krill, a small crustacean a few centimetres long. They eat about four tons of food per day.

Length : 21 to 30 m.

Weight : 80 to 135 tons

Harbour porpoise 

The smallest of the St. Lawrence whales moves in groups. It swims quickly and without splashing, giving the impression that it is rolling on the surface of the water. Its breath can be perceptible in calm weather.

Lenght : 1,5 to 2 m.

Weight : 45 to 65 kg

LENGTH : 1,5 TO 2 M, WEIGHT : 45 TO 65 KG

Grey seal

The grey seal, the largest seal in the St. Lawrence, has a long, rounded muzzle. It is seen in the Lower Estuary primarily in the summer. Grey seals are abundant in both the Gulf and the Estuary and are not at risk.

Length : 2 to 2,4 m.

Weight : 225 to 400 kg

Harbour seal

The only resident species of seal, the harbour seal can be seen throughout the marine park. The profile of its head resembles that of a dog, particularly on account of its tapering muzzle. The population is not at risk.

Length: 1,5 to 1,9 m.

Weight: 100 kg

Harp seal

Traditionnally, a winter visitor, it is increasingly observed in the summer as well. They form large groups that literally make the surface boil as they swim along. They have a black head and grey pelt with a large black band. Pups are white as snow and nicknamed “blanchons”.

Length: 1,6 to 1,9 m.

Weight : 85 to 180 kg

Rare species

Research and many hours of observation have shown that some species sometimes visit the marine park. If you see one of them, savour the experience of that exceptional moment!

Sperm whale

On the surface, we discover a massive dark grey whale with its spout directed to the left. When it goes diving, long minutes pass. It hunts fish and squid in the depths.

Length: 11 to 15 m.

Weight: 15 to 40 tons

North Atlantic Right Whale

It is usually black, sometimes with white spots on its belly. The callosities on its head and chin are unique to each individual and make it possible to identify them. There are less than 350 right whales left in the world, making them an endangered species.

Length: 10 to 15 m.

Weight: 30 to 60 tons

Northern Bottlenose Whale

It is dark brown, and lighter on the belly. Its melon—on the front of its head—is prominent, and its dorsal fin is pointed and arched backwards. This whale species is endangered; there are less than 200 individuals left.

Length: 6 to 10 m.

Weight: 3 to 7 tons

Hooded Seal

The nasal plug refers to the large, flexible nasal membrane, which can be the size of a football.

Length: around 2,6 m.

Weight: 300 to 460 kg

Long-Finned Pilot Whale

It can be recognized by its long, pointed pectoral fins and its prominent melon.

Length: 4 to 5 m.

Weight: 2 to 3,5 tons

Killer whale (orca)

The white spots behind its eyes and on its belly are clearly defined. It has a very large triangular dorsal fin in the middle of its back.

Length: 6 to 7 m.

Weight: 3 to 7 tons

White-beaked Dolphin

Its snout is white, as is its belly. Its large dorsal fin is crescent-shaped.

Length: 2,5 to 3 m.

Weight: 135 to 275 kg


Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin

This marine mammal regularly leaps out of the water. Its snout is black on top and white underneath. There is also a yellowish spot on its tail.

Length: 2 to 2,7 m.

Weight: 180 to 230 kg


Narwhals live in the Arctic Ocean. However, if you see a spotted back and a large tusk in the middle of a herd of belugas, your eyes are not playing tricks on you! Since 2016, a narwhal has taken up residence in the beluga habitat and integrated into their community.

Length: 4 to 5 m.

Weight: 1 à 2 tons

Whale watching

Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open while out walking, biking or driving along the Marine Park’s shorelines. You might well glimpse or hear beluga, minke or fin whales, or possibly harbour porpoises, as they swim along the coast. There are surprises in store for you from Baie-Sainte-Catherine to Les Escoumins, with Sacré-Coeur in between.