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    Coastal Safari
    50 Monkstown Rd. St. John's, Nfld. Canada. A1C 3T3
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    newfoundland wilderness tours

    Whalewatcher B&B located in the Witless bay Ecological Reserve
    We recommend the Whalewatcher B&B located in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.


    Newfoundland Whales

    At any time when you are on a Coastal Safari tour in Fortune Bay , Newfoundland you can encounter whales, dolphins and porpoises. This past summer the cetacean highlight were the numerous pods of dolphins . When we stopped the boat they came over to check us out, a great photo opportunity.
    More details on our wilderness camp and itinerary click here

    Our philosophy on whale watching is based on non interference with any animals we encounter.In the vicinity of whales we travel slowly and avoid interference with their feeding or cutting across their path. We limit our close encounter time to a few minutes. In close quarters situations we put our engines in neutral and do not re-engage props until whales are observed at the surface, clear of the vessel.

    Large numbers of whales dolphins and porpoises migrate into the waters adjacent to the Newfoundland coast every year. About 15 species are normally present, seasonally or year-round.

    Humpbacks are the most well known baleen whales arriving off Eastern Newfoundland in late spring from their Caribbean winter breeding grounds. They reach a body length of 53 feet. 

    Other common baleen whales in Newfoundland waters are Minke and Fin. Minke whales are the smallest baleen whale in the northwest Atlantic reaching a length of about 30 feet. They are common in inshore Newfoundland waters in summer. They are curious and will often approach boats. The fin whale reaches 75 feet in length and is a common and widely distributed whale in the northwest Atlantic.

    Toothed whales in Newfoundland waters from May to September include, Killer , Sperm and Pothead.  Killer whales reach a length of 30 feet. They  appear in inshore Newfoundland waters in small numbers in spring and summer. Other marine mammals are an important component of their diet. Male sperm whales reach a length of 50 feet or more, while females attain a length of about 38 feet. Only males visit Eastern Canadian waters in summer, frequenting the continental slope and offshore waters. Pothead (pilot whales) reach a length of 20 feet and are common around Newfoundland in summer.

    White-beaked dolphins are known in Newfoundland as "squidhounds" and reach a length of 10 feet. White-sided dolphins (also known as the jumper) reach about 9 feet in length. They sometimes gather in herds of up to a thousand animals.

    The harbour porpoise, called "puffing pigs" by Newfoundlanders only reach a length of 5 feet. They occur close inshore.

    Blue Whales were almost hunted to extinction but there has been no commercial whale hunting in Canda since 1972. Here is a 1912 picture of a dead Blue Whale.

    Sometimes whales run aground. Nobody is sure why.  Here is a CBC news story about whales that ran ashore in Point au Gaul, Newfoundland.

    Whales have their own language!

    Squid are a favourite food of whales. Here is aYoutube Newfoundland Giant Squid clip!

    Capelin are also a big item in the diet of Newfoundland whales and here is a clip of whales feeding just off the beach at St. Vincent's in St. Mary's Bay . This is a well know whale watching beach during the capelin run and only a 2 hour drive from St. John's making it an easily accesible location for the traveller on a self drive tour of Newfoundland

    The Coastal Safari camp is an ideal location  a whalewatching learning vacation because we can provide you with a whalewatching package where you spend your entire vacation on the water from dawn until dark every day of your trip.  Contact us to arrange a custom made whale watching learning vacation.

    A standard text for a whalewatching learning vacation is Lien and Kantona's A Guide to the Photographic Identification of Individual Whales Based on their Natural and Acquired Markings

    Dr. Kantona has been involved with College of the Atlantic's marine mammal research group for many years.

    The WhaleNet database catalogues the Humpback Whale Population of the Gulf of Maine.

    Wild Whales
    a project of the Vancouver Aquarium collects whale data for the  B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network.

    Whales and other mammals in Canadian waters are regulated by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans under the Marine Mammal Regulations of the Fisheries Act. These regulations are presently being reviewed in Marine Mammal Regulations Consultation

    Whales are sometimes caught up in fishing gear.
    To solve this problem a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Jon Lien pioneered the development of practical techniques to free whales from fishing gear.
    During the early years of his work a lot of Dr. Lien's work involved whale entanglement with cod traps. Since the closing of the Northern Cod fishery in 1992 the use of cod traps has dropped almost to zero. Cod traps were widely used in and around the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve and it was not unusual for a trap crew to land a million pounds in a few weeks during a good season.

    When whales get tangled in fishing gear  today the Whale  Release and Stranding Group have experts to assist fishers to untangle these giant mammals and send them safely on their way. They also have a very good identification guide on their site.

    Here are some other interesting links for whales we commonly see in Newfoundland waters divided on physiological lines into baleen, toothed whales and other whales.

    Blue Whale
    Sei Whale
    Right Whale
    Humpback Whale
    Minke Whale
    Fin Whale

    Killer Whale Also see NOAA paper on Killer Whales below
    Sperm Whale
    Pygmy Sperm Whale
    Pilot Whale
    Narwhal and a link on their extraordinary tusk
    Another link on tusks
    Northern Bottlenose Whale
    Sowerby's beaked Whale
    White Beaked Dolphin
    White-sided Dolphin
    Common Dolphin
    Harbour Porpoise

    The Official Tourism Guide for Newfoundland and Labrador contains an online whale guide.

    An interesting application available online is an expert whale identification system. You follow a series of identification questions through and at the end the program identifies your whale!

    Christopher Clark, Cornell's I.P. Johnson Director of the Bioacoustics Research Program has shown that whales in Newfoundland can hear whales in Bermuda!

    The  Whale watching web contains a tremendous amount of information on whales and whalewatching around the world.

    If you want to do some whale watching in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve  south of St. John's there are a number of tour boat operators and local accomodation. We can recommend staying at the Whalewatcher B&B  who offer a great package of accommodation, whale watching and hiking on the East Coast Trail. Here is a youtube clip from their boat.

    The subject of whale behaviour and identification has been studied extensively and has subsequently generated a signficant body of scientific studies and literature.

    Selected Bibliography relevant to whales in Newfoundland waters:

    Lien, J. and S. Katona 1990    A Guide to the Photographic Identification of Individual Whales Based on Their Natural and Acquired Markings.  Breakwater, St. Johns, Newfoundland.  77 pp

    Katona, S., P. Harcourt, J. S. Perkins, and S.D. Kraus (Editors) l980     Humpback Whales. A Catalogue of Individuals Identified by Fluke Photographs. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbour, ME. l69 pp.  

    Katona, S. K., V. Rough, and D. T. Richardson 1993    A Field Guide to Whales, Porpoises and Seals from Cape Cod to Newfoundland.  Fourth edition, revised. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 316 pp. 

    Melville, H. l85l Moby Dick. Click the link for a free downloadable version  of this out of copyright book from Project Gutenberg.

    Pryor, K. and K. S. Norris (Editors) 1991 Dolphin Societies.  Discoveries and Puzzles.  University of California Press, Berkeley.  397 pp. (Field studies and captive studies of dolphins and killer whale behavior.) 

    Slijper, E. J. l979     Whales. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. 5ll pp. Reprint of l962 edition with new forward, final chapter, and updated bibliography by R. J. Harrison. (A good basic book, technical but readable by the layman.  Includes chapters on the history of whales and whaling, evolution, physiology, behavior, sound production, migration, and distribution. Conservation problems and efforts reviewed in final chapter.) 

    Sugarman, P. 1987    Field Guide to the Orca Whales. The Whale Museum, Friday Harbor, Washington. 26 pp. (Identification by fins and markings.)

    Baird, R. 2002    Killer Whales of the World. Voyageur Press, MN. 132 pp. 

    Beland, P.   1996    Beluga: a Farewell to Whales.  Lyons & Burford, New York.  224 pp. (Belugas in the St. Lawrence River and why they are dying.) 

    Bruemmer, F. 1993    The Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea.  Key Porter Books, Toronto, Ontario. 144 pp. 

    Carwardine, M. (editor) 2002    Whales Dolphins and Porpoises. 2nd edition. Smithsonian Handbooks.  Dorling Kindersley Books, New York.  256 pp. (Guidebook: identifications, how to deal with strandings.) 

    Conner, R. C. and D. M. Peterson
                1994    The Lives of Whales and Dolphins.  Henry Holt & Co., New York.  233 pp.

    Corrigan, P. 1994    The Whale Watcher's Guide: whale-watching trips in North America (forward by Roger Payne). Northword Press, Manocqua, Wisconsin. 327 pp.  

    Cousteau, J. Y. and P. Diole l972     The Whale. Undersea Discoveries of Jacques Yves Cousteau. Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY. 304pp., photographs.  l977 paper edition titled, Whale: Mighty Monarch of the Sea.  

    l975     Dolphins. Doubleday & Co. Inc., Garden City, NY. 304 pp., photographs, illus. (This series, The Undersea Discoveries of Jacques‑Yves Cousteau, provides excellent photos; however, many errors occur in the text.)  

    Cousteau, J. Y. and Y. Paccalet 1988    Whales. Harry N Abrams, Inc., New York. 280 pp. (Beautiful photographs. Topics include evolution, behavior, communication, history of whaling.)

    The Killer Whale is of great interest to whalewatchers worldwide. Reproduced below is a
    NOAA paper on the subject of Killer Whales that is relevant for Newfoundland waters.
    KILLER WHALE (Orcinus orca):
    Western North Atlantic Stock
    Killer whales are characterized as uncommon or rare in waters of the U.S. Atlantic Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (Katona et al. 1988). The 12 killer whale sightings constituted 0.1% of the 11,156 cetacean sightings in the 1978-81 CETAP surveys (CETAP 1982). The same is true for eastern Canadian waters, where the species has been described as relatively uncommon and numerically few (Mitchell and Reeves 1988). Their distribution, however, extends from the Arctic ice-edge to the West Indies. They are normally found in small groups, although 40 animals were reported from the southern Gulf of Maine in September 1979, and 29 animals in Massachusetts Bay inAugust 1986 (Katona et al. 1988). In the U.S. Atlantic EEZ, while their occurrence is unpredictable, they do occur
    in fishing areas, perhaps coincident with tuna, in warm seasons (Katona et al. 1988; NMFS unpublished data). In an extensive analysis of historical whaling records, Reeves and Mitchell (1988) plotted the distribution of killer whales in offshore and mid-ocean areas. Their results suggest that the offshore areas need to be considered in present-day distribution, movements, and stock relationships.
    Stock definition is unknown. Results from other areas (e.g., the Pacific Northwest and Norway) suggest that social structure and territoriality may be important.
    The total number of killer whales off the eastern U.S. coast is unknown.
    Minimum Population Estimate
    Present data are insufficient to calculate a minimum population estimate.
    Current Population Trend
    There are insufficient data to determine the population trends for this species.
    Current and maximum net productivity rates are not known for this stock. The maximum net productivity rate was assumed to be 0.04 for purposes of this assessment. This value is based on theoretical calculations showing that cetacean populations may not generally grow at rates much greater than 4% given the constraints of their reproductive life history (Barlow et al. 1995).
    Potential Biological Removal (PBR) is the product of minimum population size, one-half the maximum productivity rate, and a “recovery” factor (Wade and Angliss 1997). The minimum population size is unknown.
    The maximum productivity rate is 0.04, the default value for cetaceans. The “recovery” factor, which accounts for endangered, depleted, threatened stocks, or stocks of unknown status relative to optimum sustainable population (OSP) is assumed to be 0.5 because this stock is of unknown. PBR for the western North Atlantic killer whale is unknown because the minimum population size cannot be determined.
    In 1994, one killer whale was caught in the New England multispecies sink gillnet fishery but released alive. No takes were documented in a review of Canadian gillnet and trap fisheries (Read 1994).
    Fishery Information Data on current incidental takes in U.S. fisheries are available from several sources. In 1986, NMFS established a mandatory self-reported fishery information system for large pelagic fisheries. Data files are maintained at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC). The Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) Fisheries Observer Observer Program was initiated in 1989, and since that year several fisheries have been covered by the program. In late 1992 and in 1993, the SEFSC provided observer coverage of pelagic longline vessels fishing off the Grand Banks (Tail of the Banks) and provides observer coverage of vessels fishing south of Cape Hatteras.
    There have been no observed mortalities or serious injuries by NMFS Sea Samplers in the pelagic drift gillnet, pelagic longline, pelagic pair trawl, New England multispecies sink gillnet, mid-Atlantic coastal sink gillnet,
    and North Atlantic bottom trawl fisheries.
    The status of killer whales relative to OSP in U.S. Atlantic EEZ is unknown. Because there are no observed mortalities or serious injury between 1990 and 1995, the total fishery-related mortality and serious injury for this stock is considered insignificant and approaching zero mortality and serious injury rate. The species is not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In Canada, the Cetacean Protection Regulations of 1982, promulgated under the standing Fisheries Act, prohibit the catching or harassment of all cetacean species. There are insufficient data to determine the population trends for this species. This is not a strategic stock because, although PBR could not be calculated, there is no evidence of human-induced mortality.
    Barlow, J., S.L. Swartz, T.C. Eagle, and P.R. Wade. 1995. U.S. Marine Mammal Stock Assessments: Guidelines for Preparation, Background, and a Summary of the 1995 Assessments. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech.Memo. NMFS-OPR-6, 73 pp.
    CETAP. 1982. A characterization of marine mammals and turtles in the mid- and north Atlantic areas of the U.S.outer continental shelf. Cetacean and Turtle Assessment Program, University of Rhode Island. Final Report #AA551-CT8-48 to the Bureau of Land Management, Washington, DC, 538 pp.
    Katona, S. K., J. A. Beard, P. E. Girton, and F. Wenzel. 1988. Killer whales (Orcinus orca) from the Bay of Fundy to the Equator, including the Gulf of Mexico. Rit. Fiskideild. 9: 205-224.
    Mitchell, E. and R. R. Reeves. 1988. Records of killer whales in the western North Atlantic, with emphasis on eastern Canadian waters. Rit. Fiskideild. 9: 161-193.
    Read, A. J. 1994. Interactions between cetaceans and gillnet and trap fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic. Rep. int.Whal. Commn. Special Issue 15: 133-147.
    Reeves, R. R. and E. Mitchell. 1988. Killer whale sightings and takes by American pelagic whalers in the North
    Atlantic. Rit. Fiskideild. 9: 7-23
    Wade P.R., and R.P. Angliss. 1997. Guidelines for assessing marine mammal stocks: Report of the GAMMS
    Workshop April 3-5, 1996, Seattle, Washington. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-OPR-
    12, 93 pp