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Minke whale monitoring: results of a long-term study

Oct. 27, 2013 – In the framework of our minke whale monitoring project, the Mériscope team has analyzed the sighting data of the years 2001-2013. Two direct results of this study are a bachelor thesis at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the launch of our minke whale catalogue. We have also initiated a wide collaboration with Dr. Brian Kot and Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) in order to cover as much as possible of the population of the St. Lawrence estuary and the gulf with our minke whale monitoring program.

Sandra Striegel, a student in environmental science at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, has analyzed the spatio-temporal distribution of minke whales in the St. Lawrence estuary using geo-referenced photo ID data of the years 2004-2012. This study was the base of our minke whale catalogue. The results indicate which areas were used by the 80 minke whales that were covered in the frame work of this study. For her bachelor thesis at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Sandra Striegel has earned herself the best mark.

Anna Jemmett and Jack Ward, two biologists from Scotland, have extended the catalogue, using special software for the identification of cetaceans to process our minke whale data of the season 2013. Finally, in a tireless effort, Johanne Lemieux (Longueuil) and Anna Jemmett have analyzed the minke whale data of the gulf. Currently, the catalogue holds 180 individual minke whales, but there might be even a few more once the study is finished.

The goal of our minke whale monitoring is to better understand the pattern of habitat use and the population structure of minke whales of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and to study the acoustic pollution of their environment. For this purpose, we have initiated a broad collaboration with other research stations and institutes, e.g. with Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) and Dr. Brian Kot of the Texas A&M University at Galveston. Only if we know the feeding grounds, the population structure, and the impact created by underwater noise, we will be able to effectively protect minke whales.

Photos: Bruno Zumstein, Johanne Lemieux, Dany Zbinden, Pierre Bolduc




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