Protecting whales

The Saint Lawrence is brimming with a biodiverse wealth of natural riches. Stretching some 1200 kilometres in length, the river traverses Québec from west to east before emptying into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. A waterway to be explored, the river provides habitat for myriad seabirds, fish and marine mammals. The waters of the Saint Lawrence are home to 13 species of whales, from the furtive porpoise to the spectacular blue whale and mysterious Greenland shark.

The region is also home to species under threat of extinction such as the North Atlantic right whale and Saint Lawrence beluga. A number of scientific studies have been conducted to better understand whale behaviour and better protect them.

Cruise ships regularly traversing different whale habitats must comply with protective measures instituted by the Government of Canada.

Organizations actively engaged in the protection of marine mammals include the Saguenay-Saint Lawrence Marine Park, Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals  (GREMM), Mingan Islands Research Station (MICS) and others. To learn more, we invite you to log on to their websites.

Right Whale

North Atlantic right whale

This species under threat overwinters in more southerly waters but come spring migrates north to the region stretching from Boston to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence where they remain through to autumn before retreating south for the winter.

In 2017, protective measures were implemented in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. These measures include mandatory reduction in ship speed to avoid collisions. Further details on protective measures in force appear in the section below.

Protective measures


Saint Lawrence beluga

The Saint Lawrence beluga is the only species to spend the entire year in the waters of the Saint Lawrence. Despite protective measures introduced, beluga numbers have continued to decline since the early 2000s, with the newborn mortality rate observed to be particularly high. Setup of the Saguenay-Saint Lawrence Marine Park in 1998 represents one of the initiatives instituted to ensure survival of the species.

A number of  beluga protection studies are currently in progress. Additionally, commercial and pleasure craft must keep their distance.

Distances to respect